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Originally Published as 
Champlain Society Publication XII 

A Facsimile Edition by 

NEW YORK 1968 

First Greenwood reprinting, 1968 
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS catalogue card number: 68-28603 

This work has been printed on long-life paper and conforms to the 
standards developed under the sponsorship of the Council on Li- 
brary Resources. 

Originally published as 
Champlaign Society Publication XII 

Printed in the United States of America 








Copyright of J. B. Tyrrell, 19 15 






AMERICA, 1785-1812 Ixv 







V. DEER 95 













7 tj-^Z^ 




THE RED RIVER . . . « « « • 243 









. 318 

. 326 

• 345 

. 358 









HOUSE 426 




FALLS 451 



FALLS , . 472 





RIVER 503 





INDEX 567 



Now owned by Farquhar Robertson, Esq. 




Photograph : J. B. Tyrrell, 1912. 

BERTA „ 88 

Photograph: J. B. Tyrrell, 1886. 


Photograph: J. B. Tyrrell, 1891. 



Photograph : J. B. Tyrrell, 1890. 



Photograph : J. B. Tyrrell, 1890. 

DERMERE, B.C ,,376 

Photograph : H. Riess, 191 2. 


Photograph : T. C. Elliott. 


MERE, B.C To face p. 408 

Photograph : G. M. Dawson, 1883. 

TON. Thompson descended the river to this point . . „ 428 

Photograph : Frank Palmer. 

TOBA ,,436 

Photograph : J. B. Tyrrell, 1890. 



Photograph : Frederick Wheeler. 


Photograph : Frank Palmer. 


Photograph : Frank Palmer. 


AGAN RIVER. Thompson's camp, July 5, 181 1 . . „ 480 


Photograph : T. C. Elliott, 191 3. 



Photograph : T. C Elliott. 



THIRD VOYAGE To face p. \x 


Rocky Mountains east of the Head of the Columbia 

river, B.C At end of vol. 

Nelson Mountains west of the Head of the Columbia 

river, B.C „ 

Mountains South of Saleesh or Flathead lake, Mon- 
tana „ 


In pocket at end of vol. 


THE account here published of the explorations of 
David Thompson in the western parts of Canada 
and the United States was written by Thompson 
himself when he was about seventy years old and still in the 
full possession of all his faculties, but after the active part of 
his life-work was completed and when he had retired to 
Montreal in the hope of enjoying his remaining years in 
quietude. While he was writing this history of the portion 
of his life in which he undoubtedly took the most interest, 
he kept his note-books before him, and with their assistance 
he retraced the scenes through which he had passed in the 
days of his youth and strength. He tells his story with an 
accuracy that has rarely been equalled in the case of an old 
man who is recounting the experiences of his younger days. 
I have carefully compared his narrative with his note-books, 
written by him from day to day as he travelled through the 
country, and in comparatively few instances were discrep- 
ancies found ; where these occur they are indicated in the 
notes at the bottom of the pages. 

Part n of the Narrative covers in detail the years 1807 
to 181 2, which were spent as a partner in the North- West 
Company in the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, 
and the states of Montana, Idaho, and Washington, while 
Part I is a more general account of his life while in the 
employ of the Hudson's Bay and North-West Companies 
between the years 1784 and 1807, in the country from Lake 
Superior and Hudson Bay westward to the Rocky Mountains. 
It must be clearly understood, however, that this narrative 

XV If 


tells but a small part of the work accomplished by Thompson 
during those twenty-eight years, being confined to a general 
account of his travels and of the people and things encountered 
by him. But Thompson, besides being an excellent traveller, 
was an exceedingly accurate and methodical surveyor, and his 
original note-books are largely occupied with mathematical 
records of his surveys and of the astronomical observations 
by which he filled out and checked those surveys. At the 
same time they include extensive meteorological data and 
partial vocabularies of many of the Indian tribes among 
whom he dwelt. 

The main features of his geographical work are recorded 
on the large map reproduced with this volume, but the minor 
topographic details, with which his note-books are overflowing, 
can only be appreciated by reference to the note-books them- 
selves. In the Itinerary, which I have included as a second 
part of the Introduction in this volume, a bald statement of 
the journeys and surveys accomplished by Thompson has 
been given in detail year by year, without any attempt at 
recording the incidents of his journeys. A thorough under- 
standing of this Itinerary will make his own account more 
interesting and intelligible. 

The reader will quickly see that Thompson was a man of 
great natural ability and strong moral character. His school 
education had ceased when he was only fourteen years of age, 
but he had been taught to spell and write, for his early hand- 
writing is beautifully distinct and regular, and his spelling is 
remarkably good for the time and circumstances in which he 
lived. In character he was bold and fearless of consequences, 
and therefore he early assumed the leadership among his 
associates. This was shown when the traders and clerks in 
the Hudson's Bay Company, under the jurisdiction of York 
Factory, were smarting under the obloquy heaped on them 
by Joseph Colen, their Chief, and were afraid to protest 
against such treatment until Thompson arrived from the 


interior to lead them, although he was probably the youngest 
among them. 

He was constantly occupied, either mentally or physically. 
Inactivity was utteriy repugnant to him, but his activity was 
always directed to some definite and useful purpose. He 
worked hard to perform his duty as he saw it, and when it 
was accomplished he gave the product of his work freely to 
others, for there was no trace of self-seeking or vainglory in 
his nature. 

The second part of Thompson's great life-work was 
performed when, as Astronomer to the International Boundary 
Commission under the Treaty of Ghent, he surveyed the 
boundary line between British North America (Canada) and 
the United States from St. Regis, Quebec, where the 45th 
parallel of latitude strikes the St. Lawrence river, to the 
north-west angle of the Lake of the Woods. This task was 
accomplished between 181 6 and 1826, and is not dealt with in 
this volume. 

The Narrative is here printed just as it was written by 
Thompson himself, except that for the convenience of the 
reader the liberty has been taken of altering the punctua- 
tion slightly and of introducing some capital letters. In the 
manuscript as received by me, several of the chapters of 
Part I had been written twice in somewhat different form, 
and in each case the one that appeared to have most merit 
has been printed. However, only one set of Contents was 
prepared by Thompson for these chapters, and in the case 
of Chapter XX it has been necessary to use the contents 
of the chapter that has not been printed for the one that 
has been printed. 

This narrative remained in Thompson's hands until his 
death in 1857, after which it passed to one of his sons, who 
sold it to the late Mr. Charles Lindsey of Toronto. Mr. 
Lindsey intended to edit it, and made a partial use of it in 
preparing an account of the " Extent of Country which the 


North-West Company occupied " in his Investigation of the 
Unsettled Boundaries of Ontario (pp. 225-45), but he found 
himself constantly hampered by a want of personal knowledge 
of the country described, and finally he decided not to proceed 
with the pubhcation of the book. 

My interest in Thompson's work began in 1883 and the 
following years, when, as a Geologist on the staff of the 
Geological Survey of Canada, I was travelling in or near the 
Rocky Mountains, and was making maps on which to record 
my geological investigations. In conducting these surveys 
the number of places with names of unknown origin, and the 
accuracy of the main features of the maps then in use, greatly 
impressed me. In searching for the sources of this geo- 
graphical information the late Mr. Andrew Russell, Assistant 
Commissioner of Crown Lands for the province of Ontario, 
advised me of the existence of Thompson's map and note- 
books in the possession of the Crown Lands Department of the 
province of Ontario. After making such examination of these 
note-books as was then possible, at which time, however, 
I was unable to find Volume XI, which contains many of the 
notes of his surveys west of the Rocky Mountains, and 
especially of his journeys to the mouth of the Columbia 
river, I published a Brief Narrative of the Journeys of David 
Thompson in the Proceedings of the Canadian Institute, 
Toronto, 3rd section, vol. vi, 1887-88, pp. 135-60. 

After the publication of this paper, Mr. Charles Lindsey 
wrote to me and told me of the existence of the Narrative here 
pubHshed, and very kindly offered to allow me to inspect it. 
Some years later I purchased it from him. Shortly after 
purchasing it, I removed to Dawson in the Yukon Territory, 
and it was not until my return to Toronto in 1906 that 
it was possible for me to undertake seriously the study of 
this journal which had been lying untouched for nearly 
ten years. 

Between the years 1883 and 1898, while engaged on the 


staff of the Geological Survey of Canada, it fell to my lot to 
carry on explorations in canoes, on horseback, or on foot, over 
many of the routes which had been surveyed and explored 
by David Thompson a century before, to survey the rivers 
that he had surveyed, to measure the portages on which he 
had walked, to cross the plains and mountains on the trails 
which he had travelled, to camp on his old camping grounds, 
and to take astronomical observations on the same places 
where he had taken them. Everywhere his work was found 
to be of the very highest order, considering the means and 
facilities at his disposal, and as my knowledge of his achieve- 
ments widened, my admiration for this fur-trading geographer 
increased, and in order to show my appreciation of the 
splendid work which he did I decided to offer this narrative 
to the public. My original intention was to abbreviate, and 
partly rewrite it, in the hope of being able to reduce it to 
somewhat more popular form, and with that object in view 
my wife assisted me until it was almost ready for the printer. 
Just at this time, however, the Council of the Champlain 
Society learned of its existence, and offered to publish it in 
its original form, and also to take the burden of reading and 
revising proofs, preparing index, etc., off my hands. This 
offer was accepted, and the present volume, with its wealth of 
new information about Western America, is issued with the 
hope that it may assist in confirming David Thompson in 
his rightful place as one of the greatest geographers of the 

There is no portrait of Thompson in existence, but Mrs. 
Shaw, his daughter, once handed me an old print of John 
Bunyan, saying that the picture was as good a likeness of her 
father as if it had actually been taken of him. 

There is not even a monument marking the last resting- 
place of this great geographer. It is not creditable to 
Canadians, proud as we are of our country and its limitless 
natural possibilities, that this pioneer who did so much 


without remuneration to render the country known to us 
and others should remain neglected. The least that we 
could do as a token of our respect for the man and his work 
would be to erect a statue to him in some prominent place 
in the capital of the Dominion. 

In the notes and Introduction, in spelling the names of 
Indian tribes, I have followed the Handbook of the Indians of 
Canada^ issued by the Commission of Conservation of the 
Government of Canada, and in regard to geographic names 
of natural features I have followed the decision of the Geo- 
graphic Board of Canada, but in speaking of places occupied 
by Thompson, and not since known by any other name, I 
have used the spelling which he adopted. This will account 
for such apparent discrepancies as Kootanae House, the 
Kutenai Indians, and Kootenay river. 

I wish to express my deep indebtedness to Sir Edmund 
Walker, who has given his careful attention to every detail 
in connection with the preparation of the book for the press, 
and to Mr. W. S. Wallace, one of the editors of the pubUca- 
tions of the Champlain Society, who has faithfully carried 
out its engagements to me in correcting proofs, preparing 
the index, and assisting in the revision of the manuscript of 
the Introduction and notes. 

While engaged in the preparation of the notes the 
government of the province of Ontario, and Dr. Alexander 
Fraser, the Provincial Archivist, kindly loaned me Thompson's 
original note-books, so that I have been able to examine them 
carefully in such spare time as has been at my disposal. 

In compiling the notes on the country west of the moun- 
tains I have been especially fortunate in securing the assist- 
ance of Mr. T. C. ElHott, of Walla WaUa, Washington, U.S.A., 
who is intimately acquainted with the early history of the 
north-western states and especially of the Columbia valley. 
He was kind enough to visit me in Toronto, where we had 
the pleasure of reading over Thompson's original note-books 


together. His notes throughout are signed with, his initials, 
T. C. E. 

Mr. E. A. Preble, of the Biological Survey Department of 
Agriculture, Washington, D.C., U.S.A., has very kindly added 
notes on the animals and plants mentioned by Thompson, 
thus greatly adding to the scientific value of the book. His 
notes are signed with his initials, E. A. P. 

I am also indebted to Mr. James White, Deputy Head of 
the Commission of Conservation for Canada, of Ottawa, for 
assistance, advice and notes, and also for permission to pub- 
lish Thompson's large map from a tracing which he had had 
made, for it was found quite impossible to reproduce the old 
faded yellow original by any mechanical process. 

I also desire to thank Miss Shaw, Thompson's grand- 
daughter. Miss Elsie Day, Messrs. G. R. Ray, A. C. McNab, 
J. Meyers, and others for kind assistance in supplying infor- 
mation about Thompson or the country through which he 



April 19, 19 1 5. 


DAVID THOMPSON, the author of this hitherto 
unpublished manuscript, was born in the parish of 
St. John the Evangelist, Westminster, England, 
on April 30, 1770, and was baptized on May 20 of the same 
year. The parish register gives the names of his parents as 
" David Thompson and Ann his wife," though it gives no 
information as to their antecedents or the time or place of 
their marriage. On subsequent pages of the register, however, 
it is recorded that another son, named John, was born to David 
Thompson and Ann his wife on January 25, 1772, and was 
baptized on February 16 of the same year. The next and 
last record that has been discovered about the family is of 
the death of David Thompson, doubtless the father, on 
February 28, 1772. Opposite his name no burial fee is 
entered, a fact which shows that he was buried at the expense 
of the parish. Mrs. Shaw, one of Thompson's daughters, 
informed the writer that her father's brother John, who was 
a sea captain, had once visited her father in Montreal. She 
also said that her grandparents came from Wales, and that 
their family name was originally Ap-Thomas, but that it had 
been changed to Thompson on going to London. In this 
connection, it is interesting to notice that late in life the 
speech of David Thompson the younger was remarked by an 
observer to betray his Welsh origin.^ 

On April 29, 1777, when just seven years of age, David 
Thompson entered the Grey Coat School, Westminster. This 

^ J. J. Bigsby, The Shoe and Canoe, London, 1850, vol. i. p. 113. 



interesting old school ^ is now, and has been since its re- 
organisation by the Endowed Schools Commission in 1873, a 
charity school for girls. It may still be seen by the visitor, 
some five minutes' walk from Westminster Abbey : an old 
red house, built in the Elizabethan manner, covered at the 
back with grape-vine and Virginia creeper, and surrounded 
by a large garden and playground. But in 1777 it was a 
school devoted to the education of poor boys : its " principall 
designe " was " to educate poor children in the principles of 
piety and virtue, and thereby lay a foundation for a sober 
and Christian life." The early training which David 
Thompson received within the walls of this school coloured 
his whole career, and marked him off in later life from the 
dissolute traders and voyageurs a,mong whom his lot was cast. 

Some years ago the opportunity of visiting this school 
presented itself, and Miss Day, the head mistress, kindly 
allowed me the privilege of inspecting the old minute-book 
of the meetings of the Board of Governors of the school, in 
which are to be found the following entries relating to David 
Thompson. Under the date of Tuesday, April 29, 1777, his 
admission to the school is recorded : 

"Abram Acworth, Esq. was this day pleased to present David 
Thompson to be admitted into this Hospi on y^ Foundation and y« 
Governors present being satisfy with y^ said child's settlement. Ord^ 
that he be admitted on bringing in the usual necessaries." 

Over six years later, at a quarterly meeting of the Board held 
on Tuesday, December 30, 1783, the name of David Thompson 
reappears in the minutes : 

"The Master also reports that application was made by the Secre- 
tary belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company, to know, if this Charity 
could furnish them with 4 boys against the month of May next, for 
their settlements in America. The Master, by order of the Treas"^ 

' For an account of the school, see a paper entitled An Old Westminster 
Endowment, by Miss Elsie Day, in the Journal of Education, September, 



wrote a letter informing the Governor and Directors that there were 
but two boys that had been taught navigation in the school, which 
two boys they desire may be qualified for them, viz : Samuel John 
M^Pherson and David Thompson." 

Samuel John McPherson was evidently averse to being sent 
away to America, for he " elop^ from this Hospital on the 
7"" Jan'' " following, and as he did not return he was ex- 
pelled ; but David Thompson accepted the fate for which 
the Governors of the school had destined him. In the 
minutes of the quarterly meeting of the Board of Governors 
of the school, held on Tuesday, June 29, 1784, his apprentice- 
ship to the Hudson's Bay Company is recorded : 

" David Thompson 
bound to the Secretary 
of the Hudson's Bay 
Company for seven 
years & paid. 

On the 20th May David 
Thompson, a mathematical Boy 
belonging to the Hosp^ was bound 
to the Hudson's Bay Company & 
the Trea"" then paid M^ Thos. 
Hutchins, Corresponding Secretary 
to the said Company, the sum of 
five pounds for taking the said Boy 
appren^e for seven years." 

David Thompson was thus a pupil in the Grey Coat 
School for seven years (1777-84). During this time his 
mathematical master was one Thomas Adams, of whom 
nothing further is known, and the sort of teaching which the 
poor child received may be judged from the following list of 
books, many of them then nearly a hundred years old, from 
which he was taught : 

WalUs, Mechanics .... 

Wallis, A Treatise of Algebra 
Thesaurus Geographicus 
Leybourn, Dialling .... 
Leybourn, Mathematical Institutions 
Gordon, Geography Anatomized . 
Atkinson, Epitome of the Art of Navigation 
Newton, An Idea of Geography 
Barlow, A Survey of the Tide 

. published 



















From such books as these, David Thompson received the 
preparation for his hfe-work in surveying the northern forests 
and plains of America. 

David Thompson sailed from London in May, 1784, in 
the Hudson's Bay Company's ship Prince Rupert, and arrived 
at Churchill in the beginning of September. Here he took 
up his quarters in the new trading establishment that had 
just been built on the site which is still occupied by the 
trading store of the Hudson's Bay Company ; for Fort Prince 
of Wales, the great stone fort five miles away at the mouth 
of the river, had been taken and burned by the French two 
years before. He spent the winter of 1784-85 under Samuel 
Hearne, the traveller who, fifteen years before, had started 
from Churchill on foot with a few Indians to discover and 
explore a " mine " of copper near the Coppermine river, 
and incidentally to set at rest the question of the existence or 
non-existence of a practicable passage for ships around the 
north coast of America from Europe to Asia. Although he 
does not appear to have been imbued with any admiration 
for Hearne's character — for Thompson was a very devout man, 
and Hearne an unbeliever — the intimate knowledge gained of 
Hearne's journeyings must have been more or less of an 
inspiration to him throughout his after life. 

After the arrival of the annual ship at Churchill in 1785, 
Thompson was sent to York Factory, the journey being 
accomplished on foot, along with two Indians, on the low 
shore of Hudson Bay. This was his first experience of travel 
in the North- West, and evidently the memory of it remained 
clear and distinct in his mind. A growing boy, fifteen years 
old, set down on the inhospitable shore of Hudson Bay in 
the autumn of the year, without provisions, and with instruc- 
tions to walk to another fur-trading station a hundred and 
fifty miles away, was not likely to forget the journey. 

York Factory, like Fort Prince of Wales, had been taken 
and burned by the French in 1782, and as, unlike Fort Prince 


of Wales, it was built entirely of wood, the burning had com- 
pletely destroyed it. When the fort was destroyed, Humphrey 
Marten, the officer in charge for the Hudson's Bay Company, 
had been carried away prisoner by the French, but in the 
following year, that is in 1783, he had returned and rebuilt 
a trading house on the site of the one that had been burned, 
half a mile below the position on which York Factory stands 
to-day. By this time Marten had been in charge of York 
Factory, or some other trading post of the Hudson's Bay 
Company, for twenty -four years, and had become so rough 
and overbearing that life under him must have been anything 
out agreeable. Edward Umfreville, who spent seven years 
as a clerk under him before the destruction 01 /ork Factory, 
says that he used to beat the Indians most cruelly, and thus 
drive them away burning with revenge. He was respected 
neither by the Indians, nor " by those who were so unfortu- 
nate as to serve under him. His disposition was vindictive 
and unsociable to the last degree. English, as well as Indians, 
felt the weight of his oppressive temper, which diffused its 
corroding effect to every object. Domestic happiness was a 
stranger to his table, and his messmates lived a most unhappy 
life, under the rod of this unrelenting taskmaster." ^ 

Thompson arrived at York about September 13, and the 
two Indians were rewarded for the care that they had taken 
of him on the journey by a present of three gallons of brandy 
and four pounds of tobacco. He now settled down at York 
for a year, his principal companions, besides Marten, being 
Joseph Colen, John Ballenden, Alfred Robinson, and John 
Jennings. The accounts for the year are in his neat hand- 
writing. Besides doing clerical work, he assisted in the trading 
store, and at the same time was an indefatigable hunter, and 
thus materially assisted in supplying his companions with 
geese, ducks, and such other game as abounded in the vicinity. 

^ Edward Umfreville, The Present State of Hudsoiis Bay, London, 1790, 
pp. 91-2. 


As shown in the Servants' Accounts, his purchases from the 
Company for the year amounted to £6, 12s. gd., but in contrast 
with most of the other accounts, none of this was for brandy. 

The year 1786 was a time of commotion among the em- 
ployees of the Hudson's Bay Company on the shore of the 
Bay. Humphrey Marten had been recalled to England, and 
Joseph Colen was appointed as Resident Chief at York in his 
place. William Tomison, a Scotchman from Ronaldshay, had 
been *' Chief Inland " for some years, and had resigned, but 
on Colen's accession to command at York had withdrawn his 
resignation and had decided to go back to the Saskatchewan, 
with Robert Longmore^ as principal lieutenant. Malcolm 
Ross, who was afterwards closely associated with Thompson, 
was being sent up the Churchill river from Churchill to 
endeavour to open up a direct route from that post to Cumber- 
land House on the Saskatchewan river. At the same time 
more trading posts were being established on the Saskatchewan 
river by the brigades from York itself, in order to compete 
with the Canadian traders. The establishment of these posts 
had been delayed first by the epidemic of smallpox in 1781, 
and then by the destruction of Forts York and Churchill 
(or Prince of Wales) in 1782. 

On July 21, 1786, after having remained a year at York, 
Thompson was fitted out with a trunk, a handkerchief, shoes, 
shirts, a gun, powder, and a tin pot or cup, and the next day 
he, with forty-six other " Englishmen " in charge of Robert 
Longmore, started inland up the Hayes river to establish 
more trading posts on the Saskatchewan river, above Hudson's 

* Robert Longmore was a trader in the employ of the Hudson's Bay 
Company for many years. He was in charge of the brigade of canoes with 
which Thompson first went inland in 1786, and afterwards in 1799 was Master 
at Swan River, with a salary of /70 a year. Samuel Hearne wrote of him in 
1786, "He possesses a very essential qualification, which is, that of being 
universally beloved by the natives. To add to this, his long residence in those 
parts [the Saskatchewan country], together with an invariable attention to the 
Con>pany's interests, must long since have made him a competent judge of 
their affairs in that quarter." 


House, which appears to have been the most remote post of 
the Hudson's Bay Company occupied at that time. Tomison 
remained behind at York Factory till August 30, when, with 
two young men, Hugh Folster and Magnus Tate, and one 
Indian, he followed the brigade with its loaded canoes to the 
Saskatchewan. The party ascended the North Saskatchewan 
river to a point on its northern bank, forty-two miles above 
Battleford and twelve miles north of the present station of 
Birling on the Canadian Northern Railway, where they cleared 
the ground and built a trading post composed of one or more 
log houses, probably surrounded by a wooden stockade. When 
completed, they dignified this collection of huts with the name 
of Manchester House. 

Edward Umfreville, who had once been employed by the 
Hudson's Bay Company as a clerk or writer at York Factory, 
but who was now in the employ of the North- West Company, 
had been occupying a similar trading store for the past three 
years at a point forty miles farther up the river, but as far as 
we know there were no white men beyond him, and it was 
not until three years later that Peter Pangman, one of the 
partners of the North-West Company, ascended the Saskat- 
chewan as far as Rocky Mountain House, so that young 
Thompson had now reached almost to the very limit of the 
country with which civilised men were familiar on the 
Saskatchewan at that time. Far to the north and north- 
west there were a couple of trading posts on the Churchill 
and Athabaska rivers in charge of such men as Alexander 
Mackenzie and Peter Pond, but to the south and west was a 
great unknown wilderness inhabited only by the native 

It was a time of strenuous opposition in the fur trade 
between the English traders from Hudson Bay and the Scotch 
traders with French employees from Montreal, and some of 
these latter evidently came and settled near Manchester 
House, for Thompson makes incidental mention in his journal 


of these traders who were opposed to his employers. The 
Company was working hard to secure furs wherever they 
might be found, and the Blackfeet and Piegan Indians who 
roamed over the plains to the south brought quite a few 
wolf skins to the traders, and with care it was hoped they 
might be taught to catch beaver and some of the other more 
valuable fur-bearing animals. It was therefore necessary to 
send some one out among these Indians to gain their friend- 
ship and to secure their trade, and Thompson and six others 
were chosen for the enterprise. The party travelled south- 
westward to the Bow river, probably to somewhere in the 
vicinity of the present city of Calgary, where there was a 
large camp of Piegan. Here, after sending some of his men 
back to Manchester House, he settled down for the greater 
part of the winter in the tent of an old Chief named Sauka- 
mappee, and the friendship of this chief, though it did not 
always prevent trouble, stood him in good stead many times 
in his after life. Some of the stories and traditions of the 
Indians which he obtained at the time form an interesting 
part of the present book. 

This was Thompson's first introduction to the great 
plains, and as he went to them so young, being then only 
seventeen years old, he evidently got a thorough, sympathetic 
conception of the natural untainted life and habits of the 
western Indians who wandered over them. 

Some time during the following winter or spring he 
returned to the trading post on the Saskatchewan river, 
and later he descended the river for about one hundred and 
twenty-five miles to an older trading post called Hudson's 
House, which had been built by Tomison some years before. 
This post was situated a short distance above the present city 
of Prince Albert, three or four miles below a place now known 
as ' Yellow Banks,' on the edge of a forest of spruce and pine. 
The Blackfoot tribes of the plains would hardly be likely to 
come to a place so far east and so completely surrounded by 


forest as this was, so that the Indians whom he would meet 
here would probably be Cree and Assiniboin. 

The only thing we know about him during the following 
summer is that in some way he had the misfortune to break 
his right leg ; and through improper setting, or for some 
other reason, this accident caused him considerable discom- 
fort for some years. 

Towards the end of summer, he again continued down the 
river, on this occasion as far as Cumberland House on Pine 
Island lake, a post that had been built by Samuel Hearne, 
his former master at Fort Churchill, fifteen years before, with 
the object of intercepting the Indians who were coming 
down with their furs from the Athabaska and Churchill 
river regions, and of preventing them, if possible, from dis- 
posing of these furs to the Frobishers and the other traders 
who came west from Montreal. 

He was at this time nineteen years old. It is evident that 
he had always been interested in surveying and in observing 
and recording natural phenomena, so when he had settled 
down for the winter he began to keep a careful meteorological 
journal in which were noted the readings of the thermometer 
three or four times a day, the direction and force of the wind, 
and general remarks on the climate. During this same winter 
he took also a series of astronomical observations, six being 
meridian altitudes of the sun for latitude, and thirty-five 
lunar distances for longitude. The results of the observations 
place Cumberland House in north latitude 53° 56' 44", and 
west longitude 102° 13', a position almost identical with that 
which it occupies to-day on the latest official maps. When 
one considers the nautical almanacs that were available at that 
time, this result is quite astonishing and puts to shame much 
even of the good observing of the present day. At that time 
there were very few other points on this whole continent of 
America whose positions on the earth's surface were as 
accurately known as this remote trading post on the Saskat- 


chewan river. On the maps of Canada its position has been 
changed many times, but the latest surveys have brought it 
back to the place to which it was assigned by this young 
astronomer one hundred and twenty-five years ago. 

Such was the beginning of his long career of geodetic 
surveying which was to make him the greatest practical land 
geographer that the world has produced. Very few men 
have had the opportunity of exploring the half of a great new 
continent, and no one else has ever seized the opportunity 
as David Thompson did. For many thousands of miles, in 
pursuit of my work when engaged as a geologist on the staff 
of the Geological Survey of Canada between the years 1883 
and 1898, it was my good fortune to travel over the same 
routes that he had travelled a century before, and to take 
observations on the sun and stars on the very spots where he 
had observed ; and while my instruments may have been 
better than his, his surveys and observations were invariably 
found to have an accuracy that left little or nothing to be 

In the following spring, after having determined by 
astronomical observations the position of his winter home, he 
started with the fur brigade for York Factory and made a 
survey of the Saskatchewan and Hayes rivers to that place, 
a distance of seven hundred and fifty miles. 

Later on in the summer, he again returned to Cumber- 
land House, and spent the winter with Philip Turnor, a 
surveyor in the employ of the Hudson's Bay Company. With 
this man as a tutor, and doubtless with the thought of some 
of the difficulties in the work of the previous winter in his 
mind, he devoted himself heart and soul to the study of 
practical astronomy and surveying. 

In the following spring he again descended to York, while 

^ In a letter dated 1817, Thompson states that a large ten-inch brass sextant 
of Dolland's, reading to the 1 5", had been his constant companion for twenty- 
eight years. He evidently obtained it about this time. 


his friend and teacher, Philip Turner, started north-westward 
by Frog Portage to Lake Athabaska. 

After having thus spent four years in the Saskatchewan 
country, he left it for a while, and remained for a year at 
York Factory, where his time was largely occupied in taking 
a long series of astronomical observations for latitude and 
longitude, the results of which correctly placed the position 
of the factory half a degree west of the location previously 
determined by Tumor. 

During the spring of 1788, the mouth of the Hayes river, 
on the west bank of which York Factory was situated, became 
blocked with broken ice, which caused the water to rise behind 
it and flood the adjoining land. The water rose several feet 
in the dwelling-house and did a large amount of damage to 
the buildings and stores. In order to prevent a recurrence 
of such a calamity, Colen moved the fort upstream about half 
a mile to its present position, on a spot of higher and drier 
ground. The process of moving occupied several years, and 
was not completed until 1793, so that doubtless Thompson, 
among other duties, assisted in building the Factory in its 
present position. 

South-west of York Factory, and at no great distance from 
it, is the country called by Thompson the Muskrat country. 
It is situated on some of the western tributaries of Nelson 
river that flow into that stream at Split lake, and in a general 
way lies between the Churchill river to the north and the 
Saskatchewan river to the south. Curiously enough this 
region, though so near York Factory and so rich in fur-bearing 
animals, had been occupied exclusively by the traders of the 
North- West Company from Montreal. Even as early as 1780 
Samuel Hearne wrote from Churchill with regard to these 
traders and others acting under instructions from Peter Pond 
on Athabaska river, " The Canadians have found means to 
intercept some of my best Northern Leaders. However, I 
still live in hopes of getting a few [furs] from that quarter." 


In 1792 Colen and his associates on the Council of the 
Hudson's Bay Company at York decided to make an effort to 
wrest the trade of this country from the Canadians, and 
accordingly they sent William Cook, Malcolm Ross, and David 
Thompson to establish trading posts in the district. With 
his appointment to a fur-trading post in the Muskrat country, 
Thompson was thus placed in the front of the firing line in a 
struggle in which his adversaries were not only the Canadian 
traders of the North- West Company, who were the natural 
antagonists of the Hudson's Bay Company, but also the traders 
of his own Company under the jurisdiction of Churchill and 
not of York Factory ; for Churchill and York, though both 
trading posts of the Hudson's Bay Company, sent their re- 
ports in to the head office at London independently, and the 
rivalry between them was such that it became occasionally 
necessary for the Board of Directors to intervene. 

In order to understand the conditions by which Thompson 
was surrounded, it will be necessary to review briefly the con- 
dition of the fur trade at York and Churchill at that time. 
The traders from Montreal, who afterwards united into the 
North-West Company, travelling in canoes through Lakes 
Superior and Winnipeg, reached the upper portion of the 
Churchill river in 1776, and built a house on the Athabaska 
river, a short distance above Lake Athabaska, in 1778, from 
which place they extended their trading posts westward 
up Peace river and northward down the Mackenzie river. 
Churchill and York, the trading posts of the Hudson's Bay 
Company on Hudson Bay, immediately felt the effect of this 
invasion of the " Canadians," for the Indians had always 
brought their furs to the posts on the Bay to trade for such 
articles as they wanted, and now they were able to dispose of 
them inland. Consequently, in 1774, the Hudson's Bay Com- 
pany's men went inland and built Cumberland House on the 
Saskatchewan river, and two years later they went farther up 
the same river and built Hudson's House, from which place an 


outpost appears to have been established still farther up the 
Saskatchewan at the Elbow. Here both the employees of the 
Hudson's Bay Company and the Canadians appear to have 
lived in the winter of 1779-80 ; and here, in the spring of 
1780, Cole, one of the Canadian traders, was killed in a quarrel 
with the Indians, and all the other traders, no matter what 
Company they were serving, were obliged to flee down the 
river for safety. Immediately afterwards smallpox ravaged 
the country, swept away great numbers of the Indians, and 
disheartened the survivors. After the smallpox epidemic had 
abated, York and Churchill Factories were destroyed by the 
French, and all the furs contained in them were confiscated. 
These disasters paralyzed the energies of the Hudson's Bay 
Company for a time, and it was not until 1786 that the party 
under William Tomison, of which Thompson was a member, 
ascended the Saskatchewan river past Cumberland House and 
built Manchester House 425 miles above it. 

About the same time it had occurred to some one that it 
should be possible to reach the Saskatchewan river more 
easily from Churchill than from York by a direct route up 
the Churchill river, and accordingly in the same year in which 
Thompson left for the Saskatchewan, Malcolm Ross, who had 
already been at Cumberland, was sent from York on July 27, 
1786, to Churchill, with instructions to go up the Churchill 
river to Cumberland House. 

In regard to this expedition, Samuel Hearne, then in 
charge of Churchill, wrote to Joseph Colen at York as follows, 
under date of August 6, 1786 : 

" Malcolm Ross's experience in the interior parts of the country 
will, I hope, render him perfect master of the business he is going 
about. Since Malcolm's arrival here five canoes of Nelson Indians 
came to the Factory, two of which have been prevailed upon to carry 
him and his companions to Cumberland House, where they will be 
ready to prosecute the remainder of the Company's orders in the 


As will be seen later, Hearne himself had no confidence in 
the successful issue of this expedition from a commercial point 
of view. 

The following summer Malcolm Ross had evidently 
returned to York, for in a letter to Samuel Hearne, dated 
York Factory, July 19, 1787, Joseph Colen wrote : 

*' Malcolm Ross tells me he had many difficulties to encounter 
before he reached Cumberland House from Churchill, the water so 
shoal as to prevent the navigation of small canoes." 

In answer Hearne wrote : 

" I am sorry to hear of the difficulties Malcolm Ross had to en- 
counter with, tho' from my own knowledge no less could be expected ; 
this river a little distance from here is inaccessible for anything much 
larger than a light canoe." 

In the following year, 1788, Colen sent Robert Longmore 
from York to Churchill to prosecute the discoveries from 
Churchill inland. His party did not succeed in opening a 
trade route to the Saskatchewan river, but it did succeed 
in establishing, or arranging for the establishment of, trading 
posts at several places up the Churchill river. 

In 1789 the Board of Diiectors of the Hudson's Bay 
Company in London sent Philip Turnor from London to 
Lake Athabaska in order to find out its exact location, and 
after his return they kept instructing Colen and his associates 
on the Council at York to send Ross and Thompson to that 
country, but Colen seems to have taken a very perfunctory 
interest in the enterprise, and to have been much more 
interested in competing with the Company's men from 
Churchill for the trade of the country near the headwaters 
of the Burntwood and Grass rivers in what Thompson calls 
the Muskrat country. 

In 1792 Ross and Thompson, instead of being sent to Lake 
Athabaska, were, as stated above, despatched up the Nelson 
river to winter at Sipiwesk lake. In the following spring 


Thompson alone, without any assistance from York, endea- 
voured to explore a new route to the Athabaska country by 
Reindeer lake, but being unable to obtain Indian canoemen 
was obliged to turn back and return to York. 

Later in the year 1793, he left York and, accompanied by 
Malcolm Ross, went up to Cumberland House on the Saskat- 
chewan river, and after remaining there three days continued 
on to Buckingham House, where he spent the winter of 1793- 
94. With regard to this journey the directors in London 
wrote that they would expect much good to follow the expe- 
dition of Ross and Thompson to the Athabaska country, and 
also that the arrangements made by which William Cook was 
to return in winter from Split lake, where he was in charge, 
and accompany Ross and Thompson to the Athabaska country, 
met with their " full approbation." At the same time they 
wrote, expressing the hope that George Charles, who had gone 
up the Churchill river from Fort Churchill, would " restore 
a considerable part of the long lost trade to Churchill." 

But William Cook remained at Split lake all winter, and 
while it is possible that Colen intended that Thompson 
should proceed from Cumberland House to Lake Athabaska 
instead of going to Buckingham House, there is no notice of 
any such intention in Thompson's journals, and it is impossible 
to avoid the conclusion that Colen was guilty of duplicity, 
and that while he had no interest in the exploration of the 
more remote interior parts of the country, he endeavoured to 
put the blame for his want of enterprise on other shoulders. 
This opinion is strengthened by a statement in a letter from 
the Board of Directors in London to the Council at York, 
dated May 30, 1795, with reference to Peter Fidler, who was 
Thompson's fellow surveyor in the Hudson's Bay Company, 
though at a much lower salary. It is as follows : 

" We observe that Mr. P. Fidler has been kept at the Factory for 
two seasons past, but for the future we direct him to proceed inland on 


When Thompson arrived at York Factory from the Saskat- 
chewan river in the summer of 1794, Colen and his associates 
at York wrote to England as follows : 

" Notwithstanding the steps pursued last fall to ensure the success 
of the Athapascow Expedition, we are sorry to remark it was again set 
aside at Cumberland House this Spring. As these transactions happened 
many hundred miles distance from us, and with much secrecy, we 
cannot from our own knowledge inform your honours the real cause, 
and it is from letter and hearsay we form our judgment. It, however, 
appears surprising, for when Mr. Colen accompanied the men and boats 
up Hill River, with trading goods, many volunteers offered their service 
for the Athapascow Expedition, and said they were ready to have gone 
from Cumberland House with Messrs. Ross and Thompson, but Mr. 
Tomison refusing to pass his word for the advance of wages promised 
by the Honourable Committee it of course stopt the Expedition in 
question and the considerable loss of your honours. Indeed we find 
this business involved in mystery, and as are many other transactions 
inland. . . . We have already remarked on the overthrow of the 
Athapascow Expedition this season. The repeated disappointments so 
much disheartened Mr. Ross determined him to return to England had 
not Mr. Thompson prevailed on him to pursue some other track into 
the Athapascow country, for they declare it will be impossible to carry 
it on from Cumberland as the Honourable Company's affairs at present 
stand, as every obstacle is thrown in the way to prevent its success. In 
order to suppress similar obstructions Mr. Ross took men and one 
canoe cargo of goods with him from Cumberland House and built a 
house to the northward near to a station occupied by a Mr. Thompson, 
a Canadian Proprietor whose success of late years in collecting of furs 
has been great. Mr. David Thompson has been fitted out with men 
and three canoe cargoes from this place to supply Mr. Ross by pro- 
ceeding up Nelson River track." 

It would thus appear that Ross had become thoroughly dis- 
gusted with the obstructions put in the way of an expedition 
into the Athabaska country either at York or by those in charge 
on the Saskatchewan river, and had decided to go to England, 
doubtless in order to be able to appeal directly to the Board 
of Directors, but that Thompson had urged him to consent 


to remain in the country until they had definitely found out 
whether the route by Reindeer lake was feasible as a trade 
route or not. But Ross's heart was not in this work of dis- 
covery, and he would furnish no assistance for the exploration 
of a new route when he believed that the old one followed 
by the North- Westers was good enough. 

It is difficult to understand some of the statements made 
in the letter cited above. It is evident, however, that it was 
Colen's avowed intention that Ross and Thompson should 
proceed from Cumberland House to the Athabaska country 
by the route which had been travelled by the traders of the 
North-West Company for a number of years, and by Philip 
Turnor of the Hudson's Bay Company in 1791, but that he 
claimed that this had been frustrated by Tomison, the Chief 
at Cumberland in charge of the inland trade, or by the insub- 
ordination of the canoemen, and that Thompson was sent up 
the Saskatchewan river instead. 

In their answer to this letter, written in May, 1795, the 
directors in London show their sympathy for David Thompson 
by saying, " We are perfectly satisfied with the conduct of 
Messrs. David Thompson, Ross, and others," and by requesting 
that Thompson should be advised of their approbation. They 
wrote also, " Obstacles are again, we perceive, thrown in the 
way of the Athapascow Expedition, but we trust all diffi- 
culties which occur and impede the Company's success will 
soon be removed." 

That Colen believed that he had shelved the Athabaska 
question for a time is shown by the fact that he sent Ross, 
Thompson, Cook, Tate, and Sinclair back into the Muskrat 
country to oppose two Canadian traders named Robert 
Thompson and McKay who had been cutting into the York 
Factory trade for some years past. That winter Robert 
Thompson, who had been for many years on the Churchill 
and Nelson rivers, was killed in a quarrel with some Indians. 

David Thompson spent the winter of 1794-95 at Reed lake. 


and in July, 1795, paid his last visit to York Factory. He had 
been making surveys wherever he went, so that the amount 
of geographical information that he had collected was very 
large, but there had been no attempt on the part of the 
Company to help him push westward to the Athabaska 
country. Nevertheless Colen and his Council at York wrote 
to London as follows : " The steps pursued last season in 
the exploring a new track towards the Athabasca country 
we hope will meet your Honour's approbation." In return 
the directors demanded to see the maps of the country which 
had been explored. 

But the end of this truculent quibbling was at hand. 
Ross and Thompson left York for the Nelson river on July 18, 
1795, and the Council wrote to London with reference to 
Athabaska exploration that " Messrs. Ross and Thompson 
were despatched from the factory with men in four large 
canoes loaded with trading goods last July, and we hope to 
give a good account of their success next season " ; but they 
added a sentence which shows they were thinking only of the 
trade in the Muskrat country itself, " Should the track up 
Seal River be found nearer and a better road, the whole of 
that track will be surrendered up to Churchill." 

Ross and Thompson went directly to Fairford House and 
Duck Portage respectively, where they built trading stores 
and spent the following winter, being obliged to compete on 
the one hand with traders from Canada and on the other with 
traders in the employ of the Hudson's Bay Company from 

The following summer, 1796, Ross went down to York 
alone, while Thompson made a final and in this case successful 
attempt to push north-westward through Deer and Wollaston 
lakes to Lake Athabaska. 

But how different was the outfit and assistance supplied 
him from what he had a right to expect, considering the 
anxiety shown by the directors of the Company in the success 


of his expedition. Instead of a proper supply of men, canoes, 
and trading goods, he was obliged to engage two previously 
untried Indians who knew nothing of such work ; no canoe 
was to be had, so that it was necessary for him to go into the 
woods, collect birch bark, and make one ; all he had was a 
fish net and a small quantity of ammunition, except the 
compass and sextant, which were his own private property. 
So provided, he started out on a long exploring expedition 
into a new country. The account of this expedition is given 
in his own words on pages 133-53, ^^ ^^^^ ^^ need not 
repeat it here. 

On his return from Lake Athabaska he built a trading 
post on the west side of Reindeer lake, where he was later 
joined by Malcolm Ross, his old companion, who brought 
with him fresh supplies, but at the same time he brought also 
an order from Joseph Colen, the Resident Chief at York, 
instructing him to stop surveying. Such an order, which he 
must have felt to be contrary to the earnest wishes of the 
directors of the Company, after the great personal exertions 
and sacrifices which he had made to carry out those wishes, 
cut him to the heart. Nevertheless the two men settled 
down quietly to the routine of trade, and spent together 
what proved to be one of the coldest winters ever known in 
western Canada. 

As his term of service had expired, Thompson now decided 
to leave the service of the Hudson's Bay Company. On Tues- 
day, May 23, 1797, he therefore left the little cabin on Reindeer 
lake which had been his home during the winter, and with it 
the service of the Hudson's Bay Company. " This day," runs 
the entry in his journal, " left the service of the Hudson's Bay 
Company, and entered that of the Company of the Merchants 
from Canada. May God Almighty prosper me." 

Thompson had been with the Hudson's Bay Company for 
thirteen years. During these years he had travelled in all 
about nine thousand miles, and of this distance he had made 


careful surveys, checked by numerous astronomical observa- 
tions, of three thousand five hundred miles. He had also 
correctly determined by multiple observations for latitude 
and longitude, the positions of eight widely separated places 
in the interior of the continent, and of one (York Factory) 
on Hudson Bay, so that his surveys extended between known 
positions. In addition to his surveying work he had taken 
and recorded regular observations on the climate and general 
natural phenomena. 

The following letter, written after he reached the trading 
post of the North- West Company, shows how keenly he felt 
the opposition which Colen had shown to his surveying work. 

"Deers River, Jum i, 1797. 
"Mr. Colen. 

"Sir: — I take this opportunity of returning you my most re- 
spectful thanks for your loan of two guineas to my mother. I have 
enclosed a bill to you for the above amount. 

" My friends belonging to York inform me that you are very 
desirous to find out who was the author of those letters that were wrote 
to H. B. Co. and militated against you 1795. I will give you that 
satisfaction. When I came down that year the other gentlemen were 
waiting my arrival in order to assist them in drawing up their 
grievances ; as you were then absent I accepted the office with some 
hesitation, but as the letters were to be delivered to you on your 
landing at York for your inspection, and that you might have time to 
answer them, I considered you in a manner as present. — Those letters 
were drawn up by me, assisted by my friend Dr. Thomas, and not 
one half of the evils complained of were enumerated. 

" You told Mr. Ross that when in England you were endeavouring 
to serve those, who behind your back were trying to cut your throat. — 
Before you went to England I had always a Letter and Books from the 
Co., since that neither the one nor the other, and I have been put the 
whole winter to the greatest inconvenience for want of a Nautical 

" Many of us acknowledge with readiness that you have some good 
qualities, and I had once the greatest respect for you ; I have some yet, 
but ... it is not my wish to say those things which I know you do 


not wish to hear. How is it, Sir, that everyone who has once wished 
you well should turn to be indifferent to you, and even some to hate 
you, altho' they are constant in their other friendships, — there must be 
a defect somewhere. 

" The fact is, that from your peculiar manner of conduct, you are 
also one of those unfortunate men who will have many an acquaintance, 
but never never a real friend. — Your humble Servant, 

" D. Thompson." 

But if the Hudson's Bay Company did not need Thomp- 
son's services as a surveyor, the North- West Company, w^hich 
was controlled by men with much larger and more progressive 
ideas, was anxious to obtain some accurate knowledge of the 
extent and character of the country in which it was carrying 
on its business. When he left the little trading post of the 
Hudson's Bay Company on the west shore of Reindeer lake 
and walked down to the nearest post of the North-Westers, 
about seventy-five miles farther south, Thompson felt sure of 
a welcome from the Canadians. After staying at Fraser's 
House for about ten days, he proceeded to Grand Portage on 
Lake Superior. On the way he met some of the members of 
the North- West Company, among them Roderick Mackenzie, 
a cousin of Sir Alexander Mackenzie, and the author of 7he 
History of the Fur Trade which forms the Introduction to 
Alexander Mackenzie's Voyages^ and Simon Fraser, who after- 
wards descended the Fraser river. These men were hence- 
forward to be his associates. 

For the last three years during which Thompson had been 
in the employ of the Hudson's Bay Company he had been 
receiving £60 a year, which was probably the largest salary 
paid to any employee of his age at the time, but it is not 
known on what terms he was engaged by the North-West 
Company. His first work, however, was to consist of one 
continuous surveying trip unhampered by any necessity for 
looking after trade returns. His instructions were (i) to 
determine the position of the 49th parallel of latitude, which 


by the Treaty of 1792, had been decided on as the boundary 
line between the United States and British North America ; 
(2) to visit the villages of the Mandan Indians on the Mis- 
souri river ; (3) to search for fossil bones of large animals ; 
(4) to determine the positions of the trading posts of the 
North-West Company. 

Starting from Grand Portage on Lake Superior, he turned 
back into the western country by the ordinary trade route 
down the Rainy and Winnipeg rivers and through Lakes 
Winnipeg and Winnipegosis to Swan and Assiniboine rivers, 
and down this latter stream to the mouth of the Souris river, 
which he reached about the beginning of winter. From 
there he struck southward across the plains to the Mandan 
villages on the Missouri, back again to the Assiniboine, down 
that river, up the Red river and across the head waters of 
the Mississippi river to the site of the present city of 
Duluth, and then around the south shore to Lake Superior 
to Sault Ste. Marie and back by the north shore to Grand 
Portage, where he arrived early in June, having been about 
ten months accomplishing his journey. Since he had left 
Grand Portage in the previous year, he had covered a total 
of four thousand miles of survey through previously un- 
surveyed territory, a record that has rarely been equalled. 

The partners of the North-West Company seem to have 
been very well satisfied with the work so far done by him, but 
he was an able and experienced fur-trader as well as a surveyor, 
and the North-West Company was a commercial concern 
and needed furs, therefore they apparently decided not to 
continue to employ Thompson exclusively at survey work, 
but to engage him at his old business of trading for furs, with 
the privilege of making surveys at the same time. This 
arrangement was satisfactory to Thompson, and about the 
middle of July he started west again, this time for Lake La 
Biche at the headwaters of one of the branches of the 
Athabaska river, where he spent the following winter. 


In the summer of 1799 he extended his surveys to the 
Athabaska river and some of its tributaries, and from Methy 
Portage, which is on the canoe route to Lake Athabaska, he 
started on his way down the Churchill river to Grand Portage. 
At Isle k la Crosse he stopped for a few days, and on June 10 
married Charlotte Small, a half-breed girl fourteen years of 
age. A memorandum in an old Bible belonging to Mrs. Shaw, 
one of his daughters, states that Charlotte Small was born at 
Isle k la Crosse on September i, 1785. It is highly probable 
that she was a daughter of Patrick Small, who was one of the 
earliest traders on the Churchill river.^ 

After the wedding, Thompson went eastward to Grand 
Portage, probably taking his bride with him. To this place 
drawing-paper had been sent from Montreal for his maps, 
and with the precious paper in his possession he accompanied 
John McDonald of Garth, back to Fort George on the 
Saskatchewan, which was situated close to Buckingham House 
of the Hudson's Bay Company, his old home of the winter 
of 1793-4, where he wintered and drew his maps.^ 

On March 25 he was again on the move, for he then 
crossed to the south side of the Saskatchewan, and started 
overland for Fort Augustus, travelling along the north side 

^ Patrick Small was a native of Glengarry, and a nephew of Major-General 
Small of the 42nd Highlanders. In 1786-7 he was in charge of the post at 
Isle k la Crosse for the North-West Company. In 1790 he was one of the 
partners in the North-West Company, owning two shares, or a one-tenth 
interest in it. He was a Roman Catholic in religion, and had married a Chip- 
pewa woman in the west. There was also another and younger man named 
Patrick Small in the employ of the North-West and Hudson's Bay Companies, 
probably a brother of Mrs. Thompson ; he married a daughter of James Hughes, 
by whom he had nine children, and he died in 1846 at Carlton. His wife died 
in Manitoba, and lies buried in the St. Boniface cemetery. 

* In the list of partners and employees of the North-West Company for 
this year, published by Masson in the " Reminiscences of Roderick Mackenzie," 
David Thompson's name appears as an employee assigned to " Upper Fort 
des Prairie and Rocky Mountains" with a salary of 1200 G.P. Currency, which 
was the same salary that was then being paid to Simon Fraser, Alexander 
McKay, Hugh McGillis, and James Hughes. G.P. undoubtedly stands for 
Grand Portage, but I have been unable to learn what was the unit of value. 


of the " Chain of Lakes " north of the Vermilion river, near 
the north line of Township 54. On March 28 he reached 
Fort Augustus, and on the 31st he left it for Rocky Mountain 
House, which had been built the previous autumn. He 
travelled southward to the east of Bear's Hills, across two 
branches of Battle river, down the Wolf's trail, and westward 
across Wolf Creek (Blind Man river), to a crossing of Clear- 
water river, two miles above its mouth, and arrived at Rocky 
Mountain House on April 7, crossing the river on the ice, 
which was still strong. 

The old house of the North-West Company was on the 
north bank of the Saskatchewan on a beautiful wide level flat 
a mile and a quarter above the mouth of the Clearwater 
river. After the union of the companies it continued to be 
occupied for many years. It was strongly fortified on account 
of the possible hostility of the Blackfeet who traded there, 
and the ruins of these old fortifications were still standing 
when I visited the place in 1886. 

From here he had intended to cross southward to the 
Red Deer river and descend it in a boat, but having been 
lamed in some way, he sent four men, Chauvette, La Gassi, 
Clement, and Jacco Cardinal, on this journey. As he records 
the fact that they started from Rocky Mountain House, and 
that a boat had been built for them beforehand, and as some 
of them at all events are afterwards mentioned in his journal, 
it seems probable that these men successfully descended the 
Red Deer and South Saskatchewan rivers, being probably 
the first white men to accompHsh this journey. 

The next two years were spent by Thompson at Rocky 
Mountain House or in its vicinity, and in exploring the 
country to the west of it as far as the foot of the Rocky 
Mountains from the Bow river northward to the Saskat- 
chewan. Then he moved to the Peace river, and made his 
headquarters at the trading post at the Forks, which had been 
built by Alexander Mackenzie in 1792, when preparing to 


make his journey westward to the Pacific. While there he 
made a survey up the river to the last post occupied by the 
traders, and when leaving the country he descended and 
surveyed the river to its mouth in Lake Athabaska. After 
leaving Peace river, he went back into the Muskrat country, 
where he had previously spent four years while in the employ 
of the Hudson's Bay Company. Through the inattention and 
carelessness of some of the partners of the North- West Com- 
pany, and through the greater efficiency in management 
shown by the Hudson's Bay Company, the trade of this 
district had been allowed to fall largely into the hands of the 
latter Company. 

In previous years, while working under the jurisdiction of 
York Factory, Thompson had had to contend against the 
traders from Churchill, as well as against the Canadian traders 
of the North-West Company. On this occasion the Hudson's 
Bay traders from York had withdrawn, and had left the field 
to those from Churchill who were now under the control of 
Thompson's old schoolmate, George Charles. At the same 
time there was also a third interest struggling for the trade 
in the X Y Company of Montreal. 

Thompson brought with him three canoes loaded with 
trading supplies, which he distributed among five different 
trading posts from Cranberry lake on the south to Indian 
lake on the north. He himself went almost directly to 
Nelson House on the Churchill river, where George Charles, 
governor of the Churchill district, now had his headquarters, 
and from there he went a little farther down the river to a 
place called Musquawegan (or Bear's Backbone), where he 
built a house and spent the winter. That summer Charles 
had made a prisoner of Louis Dupleix of the North-West 
Company for stealing furs from the Hudson's Bay Company 
and had sent him to Churchill, where he was to be tried. But 
neither this incident, nor the hard conditions of the fur trade, 
served to cause any serious disagreement between old friends. 


During thewinter they extended to each other various civilities, 
including the loan of books, and when Thompson was leaving 
Churchill river in the spring of 1805, everything that he did 
not need to take with him was left in the care of Charles in 
the Hudson's Bay Company's store at Nelson House. The 
two men had done their utmost to outwit each other in trade 
for the benefit of their respective companies, but at the same 
time they had remained neighbours and friends. 

After rounding up the furs from Indian lake, Musqua- 
wegan, and Nelson House, which he calls " the old post," he 
started for Cumberland with all hands, picking up the furs 
from the post on Cranberry lake as he passed it. At Cumber- 
land House, where he was welcomed by Hamilton, then in 
charge, he baled his furs and sent them down to Kamini- 
stikwia with Morrin and Carter, while he spent the summer 
visiting his posts at Reindeer lake and river and at Cran- 
berry lake. 

In the autumn, with a new and larger supply of goods, he 
started back into the same country. On the way he dis- 
mantled the post on Cranberry lake, and passing the old 
post in Reed lake, where he and Malcolm Ross had spent a 
winter together, he decided on a place to build a house near 
where an old house had stood about twenty years before, for 
here fish were said to be most plentiful, and it was on fish 
that he was obliged to rely almost entirely for food. He sent 
Connelly on to Indian lake, Joseph Plante to Old Fort 
(Nelson House), and Fran9ois Morrin to Pukkatowagan 
(Setting) lake, while he himself, surrounded by his family, 
spent the winter at the house which he had just built on the 
shore of Reed lake. 

The following spring, when all the men came in from his 
three outposts, the returns were found to be small, and it was 
probably with considerable relief that he handed over the 
charge of the district to a partner named Wills and started 
eastward for Kaministikwia. 


On November 5, 1804, the North- West and X Y Com- 
panies had discontinued their expensive struggle for the furs 
caught by the Indians and agreed to unite their forces, and 
David Thompson's name appears among the list of the partners 
as having signed the agreement hy attorney. As a conse- 
quence of the strength thus gained by union, the North- West 
Company decided to extend its trade into the country west 
of the Rocky Mountains which is now covered by the 
province of British Columbia and the states of Idaho, Wash- 
ington, Oregon, and the western portion of Montana. 

In 1805 Simon Fraser was sent up the Peace river to 
establish posts at its head-waters and around the sources of 
the Fraser river, in the country subsequently known as New 
Caledonia, and in the following year Thompson was sent up 
the Saskatchewan river to his old home at Rocky Mountain 
House, to be ready to cross the mountains the following 
year. An attempt to trade with the Indians west of the 
Rocky Mountains made from this place in 1801 had been 
iutile, but renewed efforts were now determined on. On 
the previous occasion Duncan McGillivray, who was 
stationed at Rocky Mountain House, was probably Thompson's 
superior in the Company, and controlled the policy of ex- 
ploration pursued from the uppermost trading post on the 
Saskatchewan river, but now Thompson himself was in 
charge and was to lead the trading parties through the 

During the winter great preparations were made for an 
•expedition westward, and John McDonald of Garth, who 
was in charge at Fort de I'Isle on the Saskatchewan river, 
•came up to Rocky Mountain House twice to assist in the 
arrangements, on one occasion in February going to the 
mountains himself. Quesnel and Finan McDonald, who were 
Thompson's assistants, also went to the mountains and 
freighted up some goods in advance. But everything was 
done quietly, for the employees of the Hudson's Bay Com- 


pany under a trader named J. P. Prudens were living in an 
adjoining house, and were watching all their movements. 

Having spent the winter of 1806-7 at Rocky Mountain 
House, Thompson pushed westward, accompanied by his wife 
and family, to the Columbia river, through what has since 
been called the Howse Pass, though Joseph Howse, who was a 
clerk in the employ of the Hudson's Bay Company, did not 
travel over it until it had been beaten by Thompson for two 
years. For three years he travelled backwards and forwards 
across the mountains through this pass, during which time he 
was engaged in establishing numerous trading posts on the 
Columbia river and its tributaries, in making surveys of 
every mile travelled, and in taking astronomical observations 
to supplement these surveys and to determine the positions 
of the houses which he occupied. 

While Thompson was thus extending the fur-trade of the 
North- West Company into the country west of the Rocky 
Mountains, his old employers had not forgotten him, and the 
reports of his explorations were anxiously listened to by the 
Governors of the Hudson's Bay Company in their board- 
room in London. In the spring of 1808, the Governors wrote 
to the Council at York Factory asking how far west Thompson 
had succeeded in going, and John McNab and his colleagues 
on the Council sent answer that he had wintered across the 
mountains the previous year. 

That winter McNab and his Council determined, if 
possible, to see just how far Thompson had gone, and con- 
sequently in 1809 they sent Joseph Howse, a writer in their 
employ, in default of some one better trained in exploratory 
work, to go west to the Rocky Mountains and discover where 
Thompson was going every year. After a short journey into 
the mountains Howse returned with his report. 

In 1 8 10 Howse again went west, this time prepared with 
a plentiful supply of trading goods, and ascending to the head- 
waters of the Saskatchewan river, along the route followed 


by Thompson in previous years, he crossed the divide and 
reached the Columbia river, which he ascended to its head, 
and thence made his way to the Flathead river north of Flat- 
head lake, where he spent the winter of 1810-11, not far 
from the site of the present town of Kalispell in Montana. 

But one winter of such trading, near the battle-ground of 
the Piegan and Flathead Indians, was enough, and in the 
spring of 1811 Howse and all the employees of the Hudson's 
Bay Company abandoned the Columbia valley to their rivals 
of the North-West Company, and did not enter it again 
until after the union of the two companies in 1821. 

In going up the Saskatchewan river, Thompson had been 
obliged to pass through the country of the Piegan Indians, who 
were constantly at war with the Kutenai Indians on the west 
side of the mountains, and naturally the Piegan objected to 
a trade which supplied their enemies with knives, spears, guns, 
powder, bullets, and many other articles which made them 
much more formidable in battle than they had been before. 
Even Thompson's friendship with them could not outweigh 
their objections to this trade, and they warned him that he 
must stop taking supplies to their enemies, or they would be 
obliged to kill him and all his party. 

In 1 810 they intercepted Thompson's brigade in the 
mountains and forced the men to fly for their lives back down 
the river. But the Piegan were Indians of the plains and 
not of the woods, and Thompson, who knew them thoroughly, 
decided to outwit them for all time by establishing a route 
so far to the north that they would not be able to reach or 
interfere with it. He therefore descended the Saskatchewan 
for a short distance to the site of an abandoned house which 
had been known as " Boggy Hall." The season was already 
late, for there had been just time enough to cross the moun- 
tains by the usual route, and the Indians had caused him a 
great deal of delay, but in spite of the terrors of a journey 
over these mountains by an unknown pass so late in the year 


that it would probably extend into the heart of winter, he 
started with a train of pack-horses north-westward through 
the forest to the head of the Athabaska river, and, after 
overcoming tremendous difficulties and enduring extreme 
privations, he reached the Columbia river at the mouth of 
the Canoe river, at a place now known as the Big Bend, on 
January 26, 1811. It has often been stated that Thompson 
was sent on a rush journey to the mouth of the Columbia 
river to forestall the employees of the Pacific Fur Company 
in building a trading post there, but in his journals there is 
no intimation whatever that such was his errand. He was 
perfectly well aware that the Pacific Fur Company was making 
elaborate preparations to establish trading posts on the 
Columbia river, but for several years he and his people had 
occupied advantageous positions on that river and its tribu- 
taries, and he felt that he was able to hold the trade. He 
was extending the fur trade of the North-West Company 
among the Indians west of the mountains, and was searching 
out and surveying the best routes by which those Indians 
could be reached and by which the furs obtained from them 
could be transported to Montreal, and he travelled deliber- 
ately and carefully with that object always in view. At the 
same time he remembered how the North-West Company 
had been turned out of Minnesota by the agents of the 
American government, and he determined to avoid a similar 
contingency here by publicly claiming for Great Britain the 
country in which his posts were situated. 

In the spring of 181 1 he ascended the Columbia river as 
usual and descended the Kootenay river to his old trading 
posts, travelled by canoe and on horseback among these posts, 
and then returned to the Columbia river, which he reached 
at Ilthkoyape or Kettle Falls. From this place he descended 
the stream to Fort Astoria at its mouth, where he landed on 
July 15, 181 1, and where he found Duncan McDougall, 
an old partner of his, in charge for the Pacific Fur Company. 


After spending a few days at Astoria with McDougall, 
he started back up the Columbia river to the mouth of Snake 
river. After travelling backwards and forwards among his 
trading posts until the autumn, he again reached Ilthkoyape 
Falls. Here he built a canoe and ascended the river through 
Arrow lakes, past the present site of Revelstoke, and up 
through the Dalles des Morts, whose treacherous rapids and 
whirlpools have been fatal to so many boatmen, to the Big 
Bend, or Boat Encampment, and thus completed the survey 
of the river from its source to its mouth. Portions of this 
river have never been resurveyed since that time, so that 
Thompson's surveys still appear on every map of the 
Columbia river that is published. 

Thompson had now been more than twenty-eight years 
in northern and western America, and his survey of the 
Columbia had completed his preparations for the making of 
the map of north-western America toward which he had been 
working during these years. The winter of 1811-12 he spent 
on Clark's Fork and its tributaries, with headquarters at 
Saleesh House, and in the spring of 181 2 he recrossed the 
mountains and set off down the Athabaska and Churchill 
rivers for Montreal. He arrived in Montreal late in the 
summer, after a long and arduous journey and a narrow 
escape from the Americans, between whom and Great Britain 
war had just been declared ; and never again did he visit the 
scenes of his western exploits. At this point the narrative 
which is here presented concludes. 

Thompson took up his residence at Terrebonne, in the 
province of Quebec, and immediately enlisted as an ensign in 
the 2nd Battalion under Lieutenant-Colonel Roderick Mac- 
kenzie, with his old companion Simon Fraser as one of his fellow 
officers. He spent the two years 181 3-14 in preparing his map 
of western Canada for the North-West Company, on a scale 
of about fifteen miles to an inch, from the observations and 
surveys that he had made during the previous twenty-three 


that it would probably extend into the heart of winter, he 
started with a train of pack-horses north-westward through 
the forest to the head of the Athabaska river, and, after 
overcoming tremendous difficulties and enduring extreme 
privations, he reached the Columbia river at the mouth of 
the Canoe river, at a place now known as the Big Bend, on 
January 26, 1811. It has often been stated that Thompson 
was sent on a rush journey to the mouth of the Columbia 
river to forestall the employees of the Pacific Fur Company 
in building a trading post there, but in his journals there is 
no intimation whatever that such was his errand. He was 
perfectly well aware that the Pacific Fur Company was making 
elaborate preparations to establish trading posts on the 
Columbia river, but for several years he and his people had 
occupied advantageous positions on that river and its tribu- 
taries, and he felt that he was able to hold the trade. He 
was extending the fur trade of the North-West Company 
among the Indians west of the mountains, and was searching 
out and surveying the best routes by which those Indians 
could be reached and by which the furs obtained from them 
could be transported to Montreal, and he travelled deliber- 
ately and carefully with that object always in view. At the 
same time he remembered how the North- West Company 
had been turned out of Minnesota by the agents of the 
American government, and he determined to avoid a similar 
contingency here by publicly claiming for Great Britain the 
country in which his posts were situated. 

In the spring of 181 1 he ascended the Columbia river as 
usual and descended the Kootenay river to his old trading 
posts, travelled by canoe and on horseback among these posts, 
and then returned to the Columbia river, which he reached 
at Ilthkoyape or Kettle Falls. From this place he descended 
the stream to Fort Astoria at its mouth, where he landed on 
July 15, 1 81 1, and where he found Duncan McDougall, 
an old partner of his, in charge for the Pacific Fur Company. 


After spending a few days at Astoria with McDougall, 
he started back up the Columbia river to the mouth of Snake 
river. After travelling backwards and forwards among his 
trading posts until the autumn, he again reached Ilthkoyape 
Falls. Here he built a canoe and ascended the river through 
Arrow lakes, past the present site of Revelstoke, and up 
through the Dalles des Morts, whose treacherous rapids and 
whirlpools have been fatal to so many boatmen, to the Big 
Bend, or Boat Encampment, and thus completed the survey 
of the river from its source to its mouth. Portions of this 
river have never been resurveyed since that time, so that 
Thompson's surveys still appear on every map of the 
Columbia river that is published. 

Thompson had now been more than twenty-eight years 
in northern and western America, and his survey of the 
Columbia had completed his preparations for the making of 
the map of north-western America toward which he had been 
working during these years. The winter of 1811-12 he spent 
on Clark's Fork and its tributaries, with headquarters at 
Saleesh House, and in the spring of 181 2 he recrossed the 
mountains and set off down the Athabaska and Churchill 
rivers for Montreal. He arrived in Montreal late in the 
summer, after a long and arduous journey and a narrow 
escape from the Americans, between whom and Great Britain 
war had just been declared ; and never again did he visit the 
scenes of his western exploits. At this point the narrative 
which is here presented concludes. 

Thompson took up his residence at Terrebonne, in the 
province of Quebec, and immediately enlisted as an ensign in 
the 2nd Battalion under Lieutenant-Colonel Roderick Mac- 
kenzie, with his old companion Simon Fraser as one of his fellow 
officers. He spent the two years 181 3-14 in preparing his map 
of western Canada for the North-West Company, on a scale 
of about fifteen miles to an inch, from the observations and 
surveys that he had made during the previous twenty-three 


years. This map, which is in the possession of the Govern- 
ment of the Province of Ontario, and is reproduced on a some- 
what reduced scale in the present volume, is entitled : 

" Map of the North West Territory of the Province of Canada, 
1 792-1 8 1 2, embracing region between Latitudes 45 and 56, and 
Longitudes 84 and 124. 

"Map made for the North West Company in 1813-1814." 

It is interesting to note that it is almost on the same 
scale as the great international map of the world which is 
now being prepared under the auspices of the governments 
of the various civilized countries. 

On February 10, 1814, he was registered in Terrebonne as 
a land surveyor. From 18 16 to 1826 he was engaged in sur- 
veying and defining the boundary line, on the part of Great 
Britain, between Canada and the United States. He was 
employed in 1 817 in the St. Lawrence, and thence proceeding 
westward around the shores of the Great Lakes he reached 
the north-west angle of the Lake of the Woods in 1825. In 
1834 ^^ surveyed Lake St. Francis on the St. Lawrence river ; 
in 1837 he made a survey of the canoe route from Lake 
Huron to the Ottawa river ; and a few years later he made a 
survey of Lake St. Peter. 

The last years of his life were spent by Thompson first at 
Williamstown, Glengarry county, Ontario, and afterwards in 
Longueuil, opposite Montreal. In Williamstown, he bought 
the property of the Rev. John Bethune, the father of the 
former Bishop of Toronto ; and for a time he was in com- 
fortable, if not indeed wealthy, circumstances. But towards 
the end of his life he fell on evil days. A mortgage which 
he held on the Presbyterian church in Williamstown, the 
congregation proved unable to pay ; and Thompson deeded 
to them the church and the grounds.^ He set up his 

' This statement depends upon the authority of one of David Thompson's 
daughters, Mrs. W. R. Scott. 






















sons * in business, and they failed ; and in paying off their debts, 
he impoverished himself. When he removed to Longueuil, he 
was still able to make a comfortable living, until his eyesight 
failed him. His position then became pathetic. He was so 
poor that he had to sell his instruments and even to pawn his 
coat to procure food for himself and his family. In one of 
his note-books, he writes : " Borrowed 2s. 6d. from a friend. 
Thank God for this relief." And in another place he tells 

^ Thompson had seven sons and six daughters. In the family Bible there 
are inscribed in Thompson's own handwriting the following entries : 

" David Thompson, born in the Westminster Parish of St. John, April 30th, 

"Charlotte Small, wife of David Thompson, born September ist, 1785, at 
Isle a la Crosse, married to David Thompson, June loth, 1799. 

"Fanny Thompson, bom June loth, 1801. Rocky Mountain House. 

"Samuel Thompson, born March 5th, 1804. Peace River Forks. 

" Emma Thompson, born March, 1806. Reed Lake House. 

" John Thompson, born August 25th, 1808. Boggy Hall, Saskatchewan. 

"Joshua Thompson, born March 28th, 181 1. Fort Augustus. 

"Henry Thompson, born July 30th, 1813. Terrebonne Village. 

"John Thompson, deceased January nth, 1814, at 7 A.M. in the Village of 
Terrebonne, buried in Montreal the 12th inst. No. 353. Aged 5 years and 
near 5 months, a beautiful, promising boy. 

"Emma Thompson, deceased Feb. 22nd, 1814, at 7.25 p.m. Aged 7 years 
and near 11 months. Buried close touching her brother in Montreal. No 353. 
An amiable, innocent girl, too good for this world. 

" Charlotte Thompson, born 7th July, 181 5, at ii| a.m. Village of Terre- 

"Elizabeth Thompson, born 25th April, 1817, at8 p.m., at the Village of 
Williamstown, River Raisin, Glengarry. 

"William Thompson, born 9th November, 1819, at the Village of Williams- 
town, River Raisin, Glengarry. 

"Thomas Thompson, born July loth, 1822, at 4 p.m. Williamstown, Glen- 
garry, Up. Canada. 

"George Thompson, born 13th July, i a.m., 1824, Williamstown, Glengarry, 
Up. Canada, died August 27th, 10^ A.M. Buried August 28th, 1824. Aged 
7 weeks. 

"Mary Thompson, born April 2, 1827, at Williamstown, 12 p.m. Glen- 
garry, Up. Canada. 

"Eliza Thompson, born March 4, 1829, at Williamstown, baptized by the 
Rev. John Mackenzie, April 12, 1829. 

" Henry Thompson, died 23 October, 1855, aged 42, buried in Mount Royal 
Cemetery, Montreal." 


of trying to sell to a gentleman his maps of Lake Superior 
and his sketches of the Rocky Mountains. " He would not 
purchase, but loaned me $5.00. A good relief, for I had been 
a week without a penny." 

Thompson died at Longueuil, on February 10, 1857, at the 
ripe old age of nearly eighty-seven years. His wife survived 
him by only three months ; she died on May 7 of the same 
year ; and they both lie buried in Mount Royal cemetery in 
Montreal, without mark or monument to show their resting- 

David Thompson was a man of somewhat singular appear- 
ance. " He was plainly dressed, quiet and observant," wrote 
the naturalist of the International Boundary Commission 
with regard to his first meeting him in the year 1817.^ " His 
figure was short and compact, and his black hair was worn 
long all round, and cut square, as if by one stroke of the 
shears, just above the eyebrows. His complexion was of the 
gardener's ruddy brown, while the expression of deeply 
furrowed features was friendly and intelligent, but his cut- 
short nose gave him an odd look. ... I might have spared 
this description of Mr. David Thompson by saying he greatly 
resembled Curran, the Irish orator." Dr. Bigsby conceived 
a great admiration for his colleague. " Never mind his 
Bunyan-like face and cropped hair ; he has a very powerful 
mind, and a singular faculty of picture-making. He can 
create a wilderness and people it with warring savages, or 
climb the Rocky Mountains with you in a snow storm, so 
clearly and palpably, that only shut your eyes and you hear 
the crack of the rifle, or feel the snow-flakes on your cheeks 
as he talks." 

One of Thompson's most striking characteristics was his 
piety, the fruit of his early years in the Grey Coat School 
in Westminster. The " thank Good Providence," with which 
he so frequently concludes the account of his expeditions, 

^ J. J. Bigsby, The Shoe and Canoe, vol. i. pp. 1 13-14. 


was no mere formula, but the sincere thanksgiving of a devout 
man. " Our astronomer, Mr. Thompson," wrote Dr. 
Bigsby,^ " was a firm churchman ; while most of our men 
were Roman Catholics. Many a time have I seen these 
uneducated Canadians most attentively and thankfully listen, 
as they sat upon some bank of shingle, to Mr. Thompson, 
while he read to them, in most extraordinarily pronounced 
French, three chapters out of the Old Testament, and as 
many out of the New, adding such explanations as seemed to 
him suitable." Thompson's piety was not of an obtrusive 
sort, but there were few white men in the West in those early 
days who bore so consistently as he did the white flower of a 
blameless life. 

Typical of him was his attitude towards the trading of 
spirituous liquors to the Indians. He was a strong opponent 
of the liquor traffic ; and while he was in charge of the western 
posts no alcoholic liquors were allowed to be taken to them. 
The years in which Thompson was in the West were perhaps 
the period in which this debasing trade was at its worst. Rival 
companies were vying with each other for the furs ; and cheap 
spirits were regarded by the traders as the most profitable 
sort of barter. Such, however, was not Thompson's view. 
He believed that the use of intoxicating liquor in trade was 
a short-sighted policy ; and he gives in his own words an 
amusing account of how he prevented the trade from spread- 
ing during his time beyond the Rockies. 

"I was obliged," he says in his account of the expedition of 1808, 
" to take two kegs of alcohol, overruled by my Partners (Mess^^s Don<* 
McTavish and Jo McDonald [of] Gart[h]) for I had made it a law to 
myself, that no alcohol should pass the Mountains in my company, and 
thus be clear of the sad sight of drunkeness, and its many evils : but these 
gentlemen insisted upon alcohol being the most profitable article that 
could be taken for the indian trade. In this I knew they had mis- 
calculated ; accordingly when we came to the defiles of the Mountains 

^ J. J. Bigsby, The Shoe and Canoe, vol. ii. pp. 205-6. 


I placed the two Kegs of Alcohol on a vicious horse ; and by noon the 
Kegs were empty, and in pieces, the Horse rubbing his load against 
the Rocks to get rid of it ; I wrote to my partners what I had done ; 
and that I would do the same to every Keg of Alcohol, and for the next 
six years I had charge of the furr trade on the west side of the Moun- 
tains, no further attempt was made to introduce spirituous Liquors." 

Thus for a few years at least Thompson kept the curse of 
alcoholism from debasing the Indians of southern British 
Columbia, Washington, and Idaho. 

It is difficult for us at this time to appreciate to its full 
extent the work which Thompson did for the furtherance of 
geographical knowledge on the continent of North America. 
It is necessary to go back a little and to review briefly what 
was known of the geography of western Canada at the time 
when Thompson landed on the shore of Hudson Bay. An 
idea may be obtained of the geographical knowledge that 
was prevalent in the latter half of the eighteenth century by 
reference to page xxv, where the books which were used in 
the Grey Coat School at the time are enumerated. It is 
true that geographical knowledge and progress were just 
beginning to pervade the thoughts of the educated people 
throughout the world, but exploration, led by Captain James 
Cook and a few others, was being largely confined to the 
ocean rather than to the land. Moreover, the settlements in 
eastern America had carried with them a knowledge of the 
geography of the country westward as far as Lake Superior 
and the valley of the Mississippi, but beyond these parts the 
country was still entirely in the hands of the native Indians, 
Away to the north, a mining fever had induced the Hudson's 
Bay Company to send a man inland from Hudson Bay to 
investigate the report of an enormous copper deposit in the 
vicinity of the Coppermine river, and this man, Samuel 
Hearne, had made a sketch of the route which he followed. 

In 1784, the year in which Thompson reached Hudson 
Bay, the great map of the world accompanying the account 


of Cook's third voyage was published, and in that map, part 
of which is reproduced in this volume, it will be seen that 
almost the whole of north-western America, with the excep- 
tion of that portion sketched by Hearne in his journey to the 
Coppermine river, is left blank. This map represents the 
very latest information in the possession of the British Govern- 
ment and people, and, in fact, in the possession of the whole 
civiHzed world, at that time. 

Thompson had thus a large part of a new continent ready 
for his work, and he must have recognised that rough sketches, 
such as had undoubtedly been made by some of his com- 
panions in the fur trade, were of Httle permanent value, and 
that to make such a map as would be a credit to him and an 
advantage to geographers in the world at large, he must first 
carefully .determine the positions of some of the principal 
places or natural objects in the country. In fact, he recog- 
nised the true importance of a great trigonometrical survey 
of the country, with some places carefully located by observa- 
tions for latitude and longitude, and then with connecting 
surveys made in such ways as were possible to him between 
those places. Thus, from the very first, he laid his plans for 
a map of the country carefully and well. 

In the prosecution of the fur trade Thompson travelled 
more than 50,000 miles in canoes, on horseback, and on foot 
through what was then an unmapped country, and no matter 
what the difhculties or dangers of the journeys might be, he 
never neglected his surveys. While a good deal of this dis- 
tance was made up of trips over ground that he might have 
been over before, advantage was always taken to make re- 
surveys and check the correctness or accuracy of previous 
work. He always continued to occupy his spare time in the 
winter, when he was not travelling, in taking observations and 
determining with great care the positions of any places at 
which he might be stopping. 

He obtained a thorough knowledge of the topography of 


the whole of the country which he was able to visit. The 
lengths of the rivers, the heights of the mountains, the extent 
of the plains, were all alike investigated, and the results were 
recorded by him. All the explorers who preceded him, and 
most of those who followed him, were content to survey- 
individual Hnes of travel and to be able to place these lines 
in approximately their correct positions on a map, but 
Thompson's ambition was to accomplish much greater results 
than these, namely, to determine and delineate the physical 
features of the whole of north-western America. Alexander 
Mackenzie and Simon Fraser, two of the early explorers whose 
work has received public recognition, devoted all their time 
and energy during their exploring trips to the one object of 
successfully accomplishing their explorations and surveys, and 
after these explorations were completed they turned to other 
work ; but Thompson was not a spasmodic explorer ; with him 
surveying was his chief pleasure and life-work. During only 
one year, when on his journey to the Mandan Indian villages 
and to the head waters of the Mississippi river, was he able 
to devote his whole time to surveying and exploring work. 
During the rest of his life in the West he was merely taking 
advantage of the positions in which he might be situated. 
His business was the trading in furs, but he was in the middle 
of unknown country, surrounded on all sides by pristine 
wilderness waiting to be surveyed. In the intervals of his 
trade, he was exploring, surveying, and depicting by regular 
methods on the map, the features of the country in which 
he was living, so that ever afterwards anyone else would be 
able to form an intelligent idea of it. The excellence and 
greatness of his work is accounted for largely by this systematic 
continuation of surveys, practically without a break, for 
twenty- three years. 

His surveys were not merely rough sketches sufficient to 
give some idea of the general character of the country, but 
were careful traverses made by a master in the art, short 

Published in 1784, the year in which David Thompson landed at Fort Churchill 



courses being taken with a magnetic compass, the variation 
of which was constantly determined, distances being carefully 
estimated by the time taken to travel them, and the whole 
checked by numerous astronomical observations for latitude 
and longitude. 

His astronomical observations were made with the greatest 
care, his latitudes being taken from the sun or any star or 
planet which was conveniently situated at the time, while his 
longitudes were usually determined by one or more observa- 
tions for lunar distances. Geographers will readily appreciate 
the excellence of this work by a glance at the following table 
of longitudes chosen at random from the large number recorded 
by him between the years 1789 and 181 2. 


Thompson's Longitude. 

Longitude by latest 

Vork Factory . . , 
Cumberland House . 
Kootanae House 
Rocky Mountain House 
Fort Augustus . 
Buckingham House . 
Peace River Forks . 
McDonnell's House . 
Saleesh House . 
Spokane House 

92° 29' 20" 
102° 13' 
115° 51' 40" 
114° 52' 
113° II' 
110° 41' 
117° 13' 14" 

99° 27' 15" 
115° 22' 51" 
117° 27' 

92° 27' 
102° 16' 
116° 00' 
114° 57' 
113° 2' 
110° 45' 
117° 23' 

99° n' 
115° 15' 

117° 33' 

A reduced copy of the great map which he drew is pub- 
lished at the end of the present volume, and by comparing 
it with the Cook map opposite page Ix some little idea may 
be gained of the magnitude of the work which Thompson, 
almost single-handed, accomplished in the intervals of time 
that he was able to spare from his work as a fur trader. 

It may seem strange that a man who has done such mag- 
nificent work as was accomplished by this great geographer 
should have received so little recognition. But recognition 
is, or should be, founded on knowledge, and his geographical 
work has remained almost unknown. The first and perhaps 


the chief reason which has contributed to the general ignor- 
ance of Thompson's work was the remarkable modesty and 
single-mindedness of the man himself. Self-abasement had 
doubtless been taught to him in the Grey Coat School, and 
his lonely life in the West had emphasized this side of his 
character. He never talked much, or boasted of his own 
exploits, and his writing was confined almost entirely to his 
note-books, in which he entered with perfect regularity the 
details of his surveys and the incidents of trade. 

It is true that in his later years, when the competence 
which he had accumulated in the West had disappeared, and 
when he was scarcely able to get enough work to do to enable 
him to provide food for his family, he wrote the account of 
his life in the West which is here given ; but it was not 

He was an excellent story teller, but very retiring, and the 
fact that his wife was a native of the West and, like other 
natives, perhaps shy and diffident, doubtless kept him from 
participating in the social life of Montreal. He was hardly 
the sort of man who was likely to be in his element among 
the rollicking, heavy-drinking North-Westers who made 
Beaver Hall Club in Montreal their headquarters. 

Moreover, during the time when he was in the employ 
of the Hudson's Bay Company, his note-books and maps 
were turned over to the Company, and by them passed on to 
Arrowsmith, the mapmaker, in London, who incorporated 
them in the maps of British North America, and for this 
information Arrowsmith gave the Hudson's Bay Company 
credit, but nothing was said of Thompson, the man who had 
made the surveys. Therefore, his work was entirely unknown 
to anyone outside of the Hudson's Bay Company at that time ; 

* Thompson's daughter, Mrs. Shaw, is authority for the statement that 
Washington Irving endeavoured to obtain the manuscript, but that the terms or 
conditions which he offered, chiefly as regards acknowledgment, were not 
satisfactory, and Thompson would not give it to him. 


and as to the Hudson's Bay Company's records themselves, 
they are even yet practically closed to investigators. 

After he had joined the North- West Company, he con- 
tinued to hand over his sketches and the records of his surveys 
to his associates, and when his great map was finally com- 
pleted it was taken by them and hung on the walls of their 
board-room in Fort William, where scarcely anyone but the 
traders themselves was likely to see it. The information 
contained in it was sent to Arrowsmith as before, but we look 
in vain on any of his maps for recognition of Thompson or 
his work. That some people of influence at the time recog- 
nised his ability is certain, or this poor boy from a charity 
school in London, who had educated himself as a surveyor 
on the plains and mountains of the West, would not have been 
appointed as astronomer for the British Government to run 
the boundary line between the United States and British 
North America. But the record of that survey was made on 
maps and not in books. The people who study maps are few 
compared to those who read books, and consequently, often 
great maps may remain in manuscript unpublished when 
even trivial books are published with profit and read with 

In addition to the reasons for non-recognition inherent in 
the man himself, the fur trade of the country, which was its 
only tangible asset at that time, became centred in the hands 
of two great Companies, and after the union of these Com- 
panies in 1 82 1, in the Hudson's Bay Company alone, which 
became a virtual monopoly with headquarters in London. 
Private enterprise was stifled, and the people of Canada, and 
in fact of the whole of North America, lost touch with a country 
in which they had no commercial interest and in the trade of 
which they were not allowed to participate. Thus, while 
thrilling accounts of adventure in north-western America, 
such as Irving's Astoria, or Ross's Fur Hunters of the Far West, 
might be read with interest, regardless of location, accounts 



of work done to promote a fuller knowledge of the country 
were disregarded. 

After Thompson left north-western Canada, the inspira- 
tion for surveying that country died completely out, except 
where it was connected with the exploration of the northern 
shore of the continent of America, and the determination of 
the possibility of a water passage from Europe to Asia to 
the north of it; and when in 1857, forty-five years after 
the termination of Thompson's work, the Government of 
Canada began to look westward and wanted a map of western 
Canada, the very best that it could do was to repubHsh 
Thompson's map of 181 3, without, however, giving him 
credit for it, except by a small note in one corner ; and to 
this day some parts of the maps of Canada published by the 
Canadian Government, the railway companies, and others, 
are taken from Thompson's map. 

Thompson's maps and note-books are a lasting monument 
to the work he accomplished for north-western America, and 
while this monument has remained in obscurity up to the 
present, the people, both of the east and west, will eventually 
recognize its grandeur, and will do homage to the memory 
of the man who designed and constructed it. 



For the first five years after Thompson landed on the shores of 
Hudson Bay, he spent his time chiefly at Churchill and York Factories 
and on the Saskatchewan river ; and during this period he appears to 
have travelled about tviro thousand miles, though he had not yet begun 
to make surveys of any of the routes which he followed. In 1785 he 
made the journey from Churchill to York Factory along the shores of 
Hudson Bay ; in 1786 he ascended the Hayes and Saskatchewan rivers 
from York Factory past Cumberland and Hudson Houses to Manchester 
House. From there he made a journey south-westward across the 
great plains to a camp of the Piegan on the banks of Bow river, where 
he spent a winter (1787-88 ?), returning to Manchester House in the 
following year. About 1788 he seems to have returned to Hudson's 
House ; and from Hudson's House he travelled in 1789 to Cumberland 
House, in Pine Island lake, one of the expansions of the Saskatchewan 
river. It was here, in the winter of 1789-90, that he began his life- 
work as a surveyor by taking a large number of astronomical observations. 
By these observations he determined the exact position of Cumberland 
House on the surface of the globe, so that no matter how hastily his 
surveys of the surrounding country might be made, he had that as a 
definite fixed position to which to refer. 


In the spring of 1790 he was ordered to accompany the fur brigade 

to York Factory ; and on June 9 he left Cumberland House, and 

began the survey from there down the Saskatchewan river to its 

mouth, which was reached on June 15. Thence he proceeded along 

the north shore of Great Lake (Lake Winnipeg) through Playgreen 

(Buscuscoggan) lake, and from there by the regular water route 



through Holy (Oxford) lake, Trout river, Knee and Swampy lakes, 
and Hayes river to York Factory. After staying a while at York 
Factory he returned to Cumberland House, doubtless by the same 
route (for he did not make another survey), and wintered there. 


In the summer of 1791 he again descended to York Factory, and 
here he spent the following year. 


On September 5, 1792, he left York Factory with two canoes, 
descended Hayes river, rounded the point in Hudson Bay, and 
ascended the Nelson river, making a survey of the route as he went. 
On September 28 he reached Split lake, and on September 30 the 
" Saskatchewan River." ^ A little farther up stream William Cook 
with one of the canoes turned up Grass river to Chatham House on 
Wintering lake, but Thompson with the other canoe kept on up the 
main stream, and on October 8 arrived at a rocky point on the west 
side of Sipiwesk lake, where he built a trading post.^ During the 
winter he took no less than twenty-eight lunar observations for longi- 
tude. However, this proved to be a poor place for either fish or 
game, and on several occasions he was obliged to go to Chatham 
House, which was only about thirty miles away, and seek provisions 
from his friend William Cook. 

In the following spring, when the river was clear of ice, he started 
from Seepaywisk House, and descended to the lower end of the lake, 

^ In applying the name "Saskatchewan River" to that portion of the 
Nelson river above Split river, Thompson was doubtless following the usage 
of the natives and employees of the Hudson's Bay Company of that time. 
There is ground for believing that the name Saskatchewan was originally 
applied to that portion of the Nelson river which flows from Lake Winnipeg 
to Split lake, rather than to the great river above Lake Winnipeg to which 
the name is now applied. 

* The place where "Seepaywisk House" appears to have stood is now 
covered with a grove of poplars, with a forest of spruce in the background. 
Two rocky points project into the lake and form a snug little harbour for 
small boats. Looking towards the south-west, Sipiwesk lake, dotted with dark 
green islands, extends away to the distant horizon. 


carried over Cross Portage, surveyed Susquagemow (Landing) lake,* 
carried over Thicket Portage, and entered Chatham (Wintering) lake, 
where, on a long point extending northw^ard into the lake, the Com- 
pany had a post. After three days spent here he resumed his journey, 
first across the rest of Wintering lake, then over two portages, two- 
thirds of a mile and a mile and a quarter long respectively, to McKay's 
(Paint) lake, now known as Manuminan or (Red) Paint lake, and 
thence across into Pipe lake and up Weepiskow (Burntwood) river, 
and through Wuskwatim and Burntwood lakes. From Burntwood 
river he carried his canoe across Duck Portage into Missinipi 
(Churchill) river, which he ascended for thirty-three miles, intending 
to proceed to Reindeer lake. He was, however, unable to find the 
Indians whom he expected to meet, and in latitude 55° 25' 20" N., 
longitude 102° 10' \cf W., he turned back and made his way down 
the Burntwood and Nelson rivers to York Factory, where he arrived 
on July 21. During this journey he had discovered, and determined 
the positions of, three settlements of the Canadian traders, kept respec- 
tively by McKay, Baldwin, and White (Wabiscow), and he had found 
a route which was short and easy compared to that used by the 
Canadian traders by which to bring in supplies to oppose them. His 
journal contains minute descriptions of all parts of this route, with the 
lengths and positions of the portages, how to approach or depart from 
them with canoes, how and where the rapids should be run, and so forth. 
After stopping a few weeks at the headquarters of the Hudson's 
Bay Company on the shore of Hudson Bay, the energetic young sur- 
veyor set off once more. By the Hayes river route he ascended again 
to the Saskatchewan river, and arrived on October 5 at his old home 
at Cumberland House. On the 8th he left Cumberland House, 
and continued the ascent of the Saskatchewan. On the 15th he 
reached the Forks, where he turned up the south branch, and after 
three days' travel he reached South Branch House,^ situated somewhere 

^ The Cree name for this lake is Suskiskwegimew Sakahigan, translated as 
Where-the-Sturgeon-put-their-heads-against-the-Rock lake. This is the lake 
called by Jeremie, who was in charge of Fort Bourbon in 1714, Anisquaoui- 
gamou, although the meaning given by him for the Indian word is incorrect. 

* It does not appear when this trading post was founded, but it was visited 
by Thompson on October 18, 1793. On June 24, 1794, according to the 
journal of Peter Fidler, who was at York Factory at the time, it was plundered 
and burnt by the Fall Indians who had plundered Manchester House the 
previous autumn. There were nine people in the fort at the time. Of these, 


near Gardepui's Crossing, east of Duck lake. Here he took horses, 
and reached Manchester House, his former home on the North 
Saskatchewan, on October 28, and Buckingham House on October 31, 
the latter situated on the north side of the North Saskatchewan, in 
latitude 53** 52' 7* N. In the immediate vicinity was a new post of 
the North-West Company, called Fort George, which had been built 
by Angus Shaw the previous year, and which was then in charge of 
Angus Shaw and John McDonald of Garth. 

While Thompson travelled on horseback, the boats with their 
cargoes continued up the stream, but unfortunately the winter set in 
early that year, and they were caught in the ice near the site of the 
present town of Battleford, and were obliged to transport the goods on 
horseback the rest of the way to Buckingham House. 

From Buckingham House Thompson rode out to the Beaver hills, 
near where Fort Augustus was afterwards built, and returned to Buck- 
ingham House on November 29. Here he spent the winter, keep- 
ing, as usual, a meteorological register, taking observations for longitude 
and latitude, and working out his former traverses by latitude and 

On May 16, 1794, he started down stream to York Factory. 
The river from Buckingham House to the Forks had not yet been 
surveyed, therefore he surveyed that portion of it, and continued on 
making a resurvey of the rest of the river. Manchester House was 
passed on the evening of May 18, and on May 22 he reached 
what he calls the Lower Crossing, a place which his observation for 

three men, Magnus Annel, Hugh Brough, and William Fea, one woman and 
two children were murdered ; two young women were carried away as slaves ; 
and one man named Vandereil escaped by concealing himself in an old cellar, 
and reached York Factory with the news of the massacre on August 11. The 
North- West Company had a post about one thousand yards away, which the 
Indians attacked, but from which they were beaten off with a loss of fourteen 
killed and wounded. After this, however, the post was abandoned, and the 
men went down the river to some place on the Saskatchewan below the Forks. 
Later, in 1804, the post was rebuilt at a place six miles above its former site, 
after the abandonment of Chesterfield House, which was at the Forks of the 
Red Deer and Bow rivers still farther up the same river. Daniel Harmon 
was at this post for the North- West Company in 1805, and Joseph Howse for 
the Hudson's Bay Company in 1806-7. Peter Fidler puts it in latitude 52° 53' 
N ., which would be near Gardepui's Crossing. 


latitude places in Section i8, Tp. 46, Range 3, west of the Third 
Principle Meridian, near the village of Silver Grove. From here 
William Tomison, who was probably^ now in charge of this brigade of 
canoes, rode over to South Branch House. Two places of the name 
of Hudson's House Were then passed, the loWer of the two being 
Tomison's old home.^ On May 27 the mouth of the South Branch 
was reached, and next day Thompson seems to have passed the site of 
Fort k la Come, which was not occupied at that time, without noticing 
it ; for the first place he mentions is Isaac's House, 38' of longitude 
east of the Forks, which would place it somewhere in Range 17 west 
of the Second Meridian. Nine and three-quarter miles below it was 
the Canadian post at the ''Nepoin," kept by Porter and McLeod. 
Still lower down the river was " Hungry Hall," where Ross and 
Thoburn had lived in 1792-93, doubtless at Tobin Rapids, which is 
about fourteen miles above Sturgeon t-iver.^ 

On June 2 he arrived at Cumberland House. But instead of 
returning to the Saskatchewan by Tearing river, and proceeding 
thence by the regular route through Lake Winnipeg to York Factory, 
he turned north-eastward through his old trading ground, and paddled 
through Namew or Sturgeon lake, up Goose river to Goose lake, 
and thence into Athapapuskow lake. On the east side of this 
lake he left the waters which flow southward to the Saskatchewan, 
and crossed Cranberry Portage, a level portage of two thousand six 
hundred and seventy-five paces, which, when visited by the writer 
in the fall of 1896, was beautifully dry throughout its length. From 

^ These two houses, referred to respectively as Upper and Lower Hudson's 
House, are shown by Thompson's survey to have been situated on the north- 
west bank of the river about fifteen miles apart. The upper post was estab- 
lished by Philip Tumor for the Hudson's Bay Company, about 1776, as an 
outpost from Cumberland House, and was then the uppermost settlement on the 
Saskatchewan river. In the Introduction to Captain Cook's Third Voyage, 
it is stated, apparently on Tumor's authority, to have been in latitude 53° o' 
32" N. This agrees closely with Thompson's survey, and places it in 
Section 32, Tp. 46, Range 3, west of the Third Meridian, about four miles 
north of Silver Grove, Saskatchewan. Lower Hudson's House, which was 
built at a later date, apparently by Tomison, was situated fifteen miles 
farther down the river three or four miles below a place now known as Yellow 
Banks, opposite the mouth of Steep Creek. Here Thompson had spent the 
winter of 1788-89. 

^ Alexander Henry, ascending this river in 1808, speaks of "an old estab- 
lishment, abandoned n^any years ago," just above " Grand" (Tobin) Rapids. 


the portage he crossed Cranberry lake, descended the Elbow river 
to Ithenootosequan or Elbow lake, and thence went on down Grass 
river, between barren, rocky hills, to Reed lake. Here he left Ross 
to build a trading post, and himself continued down Crooked and 
File rivers to Burntwood lake, noting on the way two places which 
had been occupied respectively by the traders from Churchill and by 
Robert Thompson during the previous winter. Thence he followed 
his route of the previous spring down the Burntwood and Nelson 
rivers to York Factory. He arrived at the latter place on July 5, 
and remained there twenty-one days. Then he turned back, and 
travelling up Nelson and Grass rivers, reached Reed Lake House on 
Reed lake on September 2. Here, in the midst of an excellent 
country for fish, game, and fur-bearing animals, he spent the winter 
of 1794-95, and during the intervals of an active fur trade, he took 
forty-six lunar distance observations for longitude. 


This year, in company with Malcolm Ross, Thompson arrived at 
York Factory on July 5 with three large and two small canoes. On 
July 1 8, he and Ross left York Factory and ascended the Nelson river. 
On September 6, they arrived at Duck Portage at the west end of Sisipuk 
lake, which is one of the expansions of the Churchill river. Here 
they decided to divide the goods they had brought for trade, Ross going 
on with two large canoes and one small canoe to a point a mile below 
the mouth of Reindeer river, where he built a house named by him 
Fairford House, Thompson with four men built a trading post on the 
south side of Duck Portage. His observations place it in latitude 
55° 40' 30" N., and longitude 102° 7' 37" W,, a position practically 
identical with that which it occupies on the most recent maps. He 
had hardly got his house built when a Canadian arrived with six Indians 
in a large canoe, and built a house thirty yards to the eastward. 


On January 12, 1796, George Charles with five men from Churchill 
called with the ostensible object of seeing if it were possible to collect 
some debts that were owed to them by the Indians, and when Charles 
departed two days later for Three Point lake he left three men behind 
for the winter. Thus Thompson had not only to compete with the 


Canadians from Montreal, but he had also to compete in trade with 
other employees of the Hudson's Bay Company from Churchill, who 
were not under the authority of the Council at York. The remainder 
of the winter seems to have been rather uneventful, broken only by 
visits from employees of the Company from Reed lake, Fairford 
House, and Three Point lake. 

In the spring Thompson first made a survey eastward to the 
mouth of the Kississing river. Then, after returning to Duck 
Portage House, he ascended and surveyed the Churchill river to 
Fairford House, a mile below the mouth of Reindeer river. Here 
he obtained, with difficulty, two Indian canoemen, and on June lO 
started to make a survey northward through Reindeer and Wollaston 
lakes, and down Black river to the east end of Lake Athabaska ; but 
the account of this survey need not be repeated here, as it will be 
found in full in Thompson's own words on pages 133-53. That 
autumn Thompson returned to Reindeer lake, and spent the winter 
of 1796-97 with Malcolm Ross at a post which he called Bedford 
House, on the west side of that lake. 


On May 28, 1797, having decided to sever his connection with 
the Hudson's Bay Company, Thompson arrived on foot at the house 
of Alexander Fraser, at the head of the Reindeer river,^ and took 
employment with the North-West Company. On June 7, after 
having been hospitably entertained by the North-West Company's 
agent, he set out for Cumberland House, and reached it on June 23. 
After a stay of four days here, he set out once more, reached Lake 
Winnipeg on June 28, and travelling by way of Winnipeg river, 
arrived at Grand Portage, Lake Superior, on July 22, having as 
usual made a survey of his route. 

On August 9 he set out from Grand Portage on one of his most 
remarkable journeys. In company with Hugh McGillis, he descended 
Rainy river, passing a fort half a mile below the Falls on the 2ist, 
and went on through Rainy lake and Lake of the Woods. From this 
lake he descended Winnipeg river, and on September i he reached 

1 No sign of this old trading post could be found when I passed through 
the lake in 1894; but Thompson states that it was in latitude 56° 20' 22" N., 
which would place it on Big Island a little north of the present outpost of 
the Hudson's Bay Company, or on the mainland opposite this island. 


Lftke Winnipeg. He crossed this lake, ascended the Dauphin river, 
crossed Lake Manito (Manitoba), and reached Lake Winnipegosis 
by way of the Meadow Portage. On September 17, being camped 
a mile and a half north of the Little Dauphin (Mossy) river, the 
party received provisions from Fort Dauphin, on or near Dauphin 
lake.^ They then proceeded northward up the west shore of Lake 

^ Fort Dauphin was one of the oldest trading posts in the North-West. 
Its position was changed from time to time, although it was always in the 
good hunting ground in the vicinity of Dauphin lake. It was first built on 
the Mossy river in the autumn of 1741, by Pierre, one of the sons of the 
Sieur de la Vdrendrye, who had travelled northward from Fort la Reine 
(Portage la Prairie), across Prairie Portage into Lake Manitoba, and thence 
by Lake Winnipegosis into Mossy river. Bougainville states that it was 
eighty leagues from La Reine on the river Minanghenachequek^, which is 
the present Indian name for Mossy river. Harmon, in his Journal, p. 52, 
speaks of "the establishment at the entrance of the River Dauphin, which 
falls into the west end of this [Winnepegosis] lake. At that place a French 
missionary resided before the British obtained possession of Canada. He 
remained there but a short time." In 1889, I found the cellars and ruins 
of an old trading post on the east bank of the Mossy river, three-quarters 
of a mile above its mouth, on a narrow strip of grassy land between the forest 
and the river. The site was probably built upon several times ; but possibly 
the first house erected here was that of Pierre de la Verendrye. Peter Pond, 
who appears to have been the first Englishman to occupy a fort of this name 
after the place was abandoned by the French, gives the location of the post 
occupied by him in 1775, at the north-west angle of Lake Dauphin. (See 
Peter Pond's map of 1790, Can. Arch. Report, 1890, p. 53.) But I could find 
no trace of the existence of a house at that place. 

When Thompson was at the mouth of Mossy river in 1797, Fort Dauphin 
was evidently a supply depot for provisions. The post was not then, however,, 
at the mouth of Mossy river, for it took four days for the canoes to go from 
Meadow Portage to the mouth of Mossy river, a distance of thirteen miles, 
thence to the trading post, and back to the mouth of the river. Thompson 
was never on Lake Dauphin, but his map shows it as lying east and west, and 
the post of the North-West Company appears on a stream flowing into the 
lake on its southern side. The lake lies north-west and south-east, and the 
south-western sides of all these lakes were commonly spoken of by travellers 
as their southern sides, the error being in large part accounted for by the 
considerable variation of the magnetic needle. The largest stream flowing 
into the south-west side of the lake is Valley river ; and in all probability the 
house visited by Thompson's men in 1797 must be identified with the remains 
of an old post on the south side of Valley river a few miles above its mouth, 
and about two miles in a straight line back from the lake. 

Ruins of another trading post of a later date, belonging to the Hudson's 
Bay Company, exist in the poplar forest on the west side of the lake eight 


Winnipegosis. On September 19, McGillis left to go up the Red 
Deer river, whereas Thompson stopped at the mouth of Shoal river. 
He ascended this river, passed through Swan lake, and ascended 
Swan river for four miles and three-quarters to Swan River House, 
on the north bank of the stream, in latitude 52° 24' 5" N.^ 

Horses were then in common use in the Swan river valley, and 
after resting a day at the post, Thompson and Cuthbert Grant 
borrowed two horses from Thomas Swain of the Hudson's Bay 
Company, and started up the valley on a trail which ran for most of 
the distance along the north side of the river. On the second day 
they crossed to the south side of Swan river, and rode six miles to 
a house kept by one Belleau in a " hummock of pines " on the bank 
of Snake Creek, almost on the present line of the Second Principal 
Meridian, and about six miles north of Fort Pelly. From here he 
turned southward, and continued his survey past the post of the 
Hudson's Bay Company at the Elbow of the Assiniboine river to the 
house of Cuthbert Grant, which was situated in Tp. 28, Range 31, 
south-west of the present village of Runnymede on the Canadian 
Northern Railway.^ Here he remained till October 14, when he 
returned to Belleau's House on Snake Creek, in order, if possible, to 
obtain guides to take him up the Swan river, across the watershed 
to Red Deer river, and thence around to the head waters of the 
Assiniboine river. From this date to November 28 his journal was 
lost, but he states, "I surveyed the Stone Indian [Assiniboine] River 
upward, and its sources, and the Red Deer River and its sources, and 

miles south of the mouth of Valley river. Alexander Murray is said to 
have traded here in the late seventies. The ruins of yet another house of the 
Hudson's Bay Company, which was only used as a winter post for a short 
time in the seventies, is to be seen at the south-east angle of the lake. 

^ As Harmon, who arrived here three years later, points out in his Journal ^ 
this post is twelve miles up the river from its mouth ; and this is where it is 
placed on J. B. Tyrrell's map of North-Western Manitoba (1891), published by 
the Geological Survey of Canada. The house was in a grove of poplar ; and 
half a mile farther west was the Dog Knoll, where the men used to move 
the stores in times of flood. A couple of miles higher up the river, and 
twenty-five paces back of it on the north side, where the banks are fifteen feet 
high, is the position of a post of the Hudson's Bay Company. 

* In 1890 the remains of an old establishment were to be seen in the south- 
west quarter. Section 14, Tp. 28, R. 31, west of the First Meridian, five hundred 
paces east of the bank of the river, and fifty paces from the foot of the side of 
the valley, at the mouth of a dry ravine. 


from thence returned to the house of Mr. Cuthbert Grant, at the 
Brooks, on the Stone Indian River." He gives in his journal, how- 
ever, traverses worked out by latitude and departure which show his 
course to have been from Belleau's House to the Upper House on Red 
Deer river, in latitude 52° 47' 44" N.* From here he turned south- 
westward, and continued his survey to the "Upper House on Stone 
Indian River," afterwards known as Alexandria, where Daniel Harmon 
spent the years 1800- 1805.* From Alexandria he travelled down the 
river to the Elbow, and thence to Cuthbert Grant*s House. From 
there he continued southward to Thorburn's House on the Qu' Appelle 
river, a few miles above its mouth, in latitude 50° 28' 57" N., and 
thence to McDonnell's House a mile and a half above the mouth of 
the Souris river. 

The winter had by this time set in, when travelling on the open 
plains was unpleasant and dangerous, but Thompson was anxious to 
find out the exact positions of those Indian villages on the Missouri 
where the people lived by the cultivation of corn as well as by hunting 
the buffalo. With this object in view, and with the hope also that 
some of these Indians might be induced to establish a regular trade 
with the North- West Company, he set out from McDonnell's (Assini- 
boine) House, on November 28, with nine men, a few horses, and 
thirty dogs, and started south-westward across the plain. On Decem- 
ber 7 he reached Old Ash House on the Souris river, "settled 
two years ago and abandoned the following spring " ; and here, having 
been unable to procure a guide for the rest of the journey, he was 
himself compelled to assume the lead. By way of Turtle Mountain, 
he struck across the plains until he again reached the Souris river, 

^ Thompson's map shows this house to have been on the north bank of the 
Red Deer river. It was probably opposite the mouth of the Etoimami river, 
between three and four miles south of Hudson Bay Junction on the Canadian 
Northern Railway, where the ruins of two old houses were to be seen in 1889. 
This post is probably the one referred to as Fort La Biche on Pond's map of 
1790, though there it is wrongly placed on the Swan river. It was doubtless 
one of the oldest trading posts south of the Saskatchewan river and west of 
the Manitoba lakes ; the only other posts designated on this map being Fort 
Dauphin on Lake Dauphin, and Fort Epinette on the Assiniboine river. 

* See Harmon's y<7«r«a/, p. 59. Thompson's map places this post on the 
west side of the Assiniboine river in latitude 51° 46' 58" N., which would place 
it in Section 27, Tp. 32, R. 3, west of the Second Meridian. Peter Fidler had 
spent the winter of 1795-96 in an adjoining house belonging to the Hudson's 
Bay Company, which was called by him Charlton House. 


which he followed up to its " bight " ; thence he crossed the plains, 
a distance of thirty-seven miles, to the Missouri river, reaching it on 
December 29 at a point six miles above the upper of the Mandan 
villages. At these villages, which were five in number, he remained 
until January 10, trying to induce the Indians to come north to 
trade, but with very little success, as they were afraid of the Sioux. 
While here, he wrote down a vocabulary of the Mandan language, 
containing about three hundred and seventy-five words. 


He left the Mandan villages on January 10, 1798, but being 
delayed by severe storms, did not reach the Souris river until 
January 24, and he did not arrive at McDonnell's House at the mouth 
of Souris river until February 3. The account of this journey is 
given in his own words on pages 209—42. At Souris River Post 
he remained until February 26, making up his notes and plans, and 
preparing himself for a longer trip, this time on foot, to connect the 
waters of the Red and Mississippi rivers, and thence onward to 
Lake Superior, a trip which his companions ridiculed as being im- 
possible to accomplish before the advent of summer. On February 26, 
however, he started out on foot with a dog team, and followed the 
course of the Assiniboine eastward to its mouth, making as usual a 
survey of his route ; and passing on his way Pine Fort and Poplar 
House, both of which had been abandoned, and some houses a little 
below the Meadow Portage to Lake Manitoba. On March 7 he 
reached the Forks of the Assiniboine and Red rivers, the site of the 
present city of Winnipeg, though no mention is made of any habita- 
tion there at that time. Travelling on the ice, he turned up the 
latter stream, and on the second day reached Chaboillez's old house 
of the North-West Company, a quarter of a mile up Rat Creek above 
its mouth, in latitude 49° 33' S^" N., a few miles west of Niverville, 
on the Emerson branch of the Canadian Pacific Railway. 

On March 14 he crossed the boundary line into the United 
States, and reached the house of Charles Chaboillez at the mouth 
of Summerberry or Pembina river, in latitude 48° 58' 29" N., on the 
site of the present town of Pembina in North Dakota. After a week 
spent here, he proceeded up Red river, passing the house of the 
North-West Company kept by a trader named Roy, at the mouth of 
Salt river, and then ascended Red Lake river to the mouth of Clear 


river, where there was a North-West Company's house kept by 
Baptiste Cadotte, in latitude 47° 54' 21" N., close to the present site of 
Red Lake Falls. He reached this house on March 24, and at once 
endeavoured to proceed eastward on foot, but was obliged to return 
and wait for the breaking up of the ice, as " the snow thawing made 
the open country like a lake of open water." On April 9 he made 
a fresh start from Cadotte's House, this time in a canoe with three 
men. He ascended Clear river for six days, carried across to Red 
Lake river, and ascended Red Lake river to Red lake, which he 
reached at a point in latitude 47° 58' 15" N. 

The lake was still covered with ice, but after waiting for three days 
he was able to force his canoe southward for two miles between the 
ice and the shore to an old house which had been occupied by Cadotte 
the previous winter. Here, farther progress by water being impos- 
sible, he built a sled, and putting the canoe and all the baggage of the 
party on it, he harnessed himself and men in front of it, and hauled 
it for fifteen miles across the ice of the lake to a portage six miles in 
length, which was crossed the following day to a small brook ; after 
which he wound his way through small lakes and brooks, and walked 
over short portages till, on April 27, he arrived at Turtle lake, from 
which flows " Turtle Brook." This lake was pronounced by Thomp- 
son to be the source of the Mississippi. A generation later it was 
discovered that the Mississippi took its rise in Itasca lake, a few miles 
farther south. But the two lakes are so near together that it may be 
■said that to this indefatigable, but hitherto almost unknown, geographer 
belongs the virtual credit of discovering the head-waters of this great 

From Turtle lake Thompson descended Turtle Brook to Red 
Cedar (Cass) lake, on which there was a North- West Company's 
house, kept by John Sayer, which he places in latitude 47° 27' 
56" N. and longitude 95° W. He remained here from April 29 to 
May 3 ; then he again embarked and struck across to the Mississippi 
river, down which he travelled through " Winnipegoos " (Winnibi- 
goshish) lake to the mouth of Sand Lake river. Here he left the 
main stream of the Mississippi, and turned up Sand Lake river to 
Sand lake (Sandy lake in Aitkin county), on which was a house 
belonging to the North- West Company, a mile and a quarter east 
from the head of the river, in latitude 46° 46' 39" N. From this 
house he crossed the lake to the mouth of Savannah Brook, which he 
followed up to the Savannah Carrying Place, a deep bog four miles 


across. He crossed this portage to a small creek that flows into the 
St. Louis river, and descended the latter stream to Fond du Lac 
House, in latitude 46° 44' 2" N., three miles up the river from Lake 
Superior. He reached this post on May 10, two months and eighteen 
days after leaving the mouth of the Souris river. From here he 
surveyed the south shore of Lake Superior ; and on May 20 he 
arrived at the Falls of Ste. Marie. On June i he left Sault Ste. 
Marie in a light canoe with eleven men, in company with Messrs. 
Mackenzie, McLeod, and Stuart, and reached Grand Portage on 
June 7. The time was a busy one at this the central post of the 
North- West Company, and in his journal Thompson gives a very in- 
teresting account of the men who were almost daily arriving from, and 
departing for, many widely separated posts throughout the west. 

On July 14 he started once more for the interior with the 
English (Churchill) river brigade, and after passing Fort Charlotte, 
Rainy Lake House, and Rat Portage, he arrived at "Winnipeg 
House," 1 at the mouth of the Winnipeg river, on July 31. Having 
travelled along the east shore of Lake Winnipeg, he reached the mouth 
of the Saskatchewan on August 9, and on August 18 Cumberland 
House, where Peter Fidler was in charge at the English (Hudson's 
Bay Company) House, and Primo was in charge of the post of the 
North- West Company. On August 19 he left here, his destination 
being Lake La Biche, or Red Deer lake. Ascending the Sturgeon- 
weir river, and passing through Amisk lake, he reached Missinipi 
(Churchill) river by way of the Frog Portage on August 24, 
ascended Churchill river to the mouth of the Rapid river where 
there was a house occupied at the time by " Roy, a Canadian, all 
alone," and up this stream to Lake La Ronge, on which was the site 
of an old post where Simon Eraser had wintered in 1795-96. He 
then returned to Churchill river, and a mile above the mouth of Rapid 
river found a house on the north bank which the men of the Hudson's 
Bay Company had recently abandoned. He continued to ascend the 

1 This house, called also Fort Alexander and Bas de la Riviere, is said 
by Roderick Mackenzie to have been established in 1792 by Toussaint 
Lesieur a few miles below and opposite the old French Fort Maurepas. 
Gabriel Franch^re, who passed the place in 1814, wrote : "This trading post 
had more the air of a large and well-cultivated farm, than a fur traders' factory ; 
a neat and elegant mansion, built on a slight eminence, and surrounded with 
barns, stables, storehouses, &c., and by fields of barley, peas, oats, and potatoes." 
The site is still occupied by the Hudson's Bay Company. 


river to Isle a la Crosse lake. On September 6 he reached the " new 
fort of the North- West Company's " ^ at the southern end of the lake, 
in latitude 56° 26' 15" N., three-quarters of a mile north-east of the old 
settlement which had been visited by Turnor several years before. 

Here he left goods for Alexander McKay, who was in charge of the 
post, and on September 8 he began the ascent of Beaver river, and con- 
tinued south to the trading post on Green lake, in latitude 54° 17' 9"N., 
on the east side of the lake, near its north end. At Green Lake 
House he left his canoes to proceed up Beaver river, while he himself 
took horses and struck across the country a little south of west to Fort 
George, on the Saskatchewan river, close to the Hudson's Bay Com- 
pany's post at Buckingham House, where he had wintered in 1793-94. 
After a delay of three or four days at this place, he turned north- 
westward to Beaver river, which he reached at the mouth of Moose 
Creek in latitude 54° 22' 14" N., whence with great difficulty he ascended 
Beaver river and Red Deer Brook to Red Deer lake (Lake La Biche), 
where he built a house ^ in latitude 54° 46' 32" N. At this house he 
remained for the winter, trading with the Indians and taking astro- 
nomical observations. 


Some time between the middle and end of March 1799, he left 
Lake La Biche for Fort Augustus, which at this time was situated on 
the north bank of the North Saskatchewan river, a mile and a half 
above the mouth of Sturgeon river, within the present settlement of 
Fort Saskatchewan. This post he places in latitude 53° 44' 52" N. 
and longitude 113° ii' W., a mile east of its true position. It had 
been built four or five years before in order to secure the trade with 
the Blackfeet. After staying here about two weeks, he set out on 
April 19, with three horses and five men, and travelling north-westward, 
reached the Pembina river on the evening of the 21st, in latitude 

^ The position now occupied by the Hudson's Bay Company post of Isle 
a la Crosse is at the bottom of a little bay opening eastward near the south 
end of the lake. A little farther north is the site of a former post of the 
Hudson's Bay Company ; and two other sites, one of which is said to have 
been occupied by the North-West Company, are on the point still farther 
north. On Thompson's map the post of the North-West Company is marked 
on the point north of the arm of the lake which stretches westward, toward 
Buffalo lake; but its exact position is not known. 

* A post had previously been built by Angus Shaw on this lake in 1789. 


54° 15' 4" N., near where it crosses the Fifth Meridian. Here a canoe 
had been built for him ; so, sending back the horses, he started down 
the river, and reached its mouth on Athabaska river on April 25. 
He surveyed this stream down to the mouth of Lesser Slave Lake 
river ; then he turned into this stream, and surveyed it up to Lesser 
Slave lake ; and having returned thence, he continued down the 
Athabaska river to the new post at the mouth of the Clearwater, where 
Fort McMurray now stands. On May 10, after remaining at this 
post for a few days, he continued his survey, this time up the " Methy 
Portage " (Clearwater) river, crossed the Methy Portage, and de- 
scended the Churchill river through Buffalo lake to Isle a la Crosse 
lake, which he reached on May 20. Thence he proceeded direct 
to Grand Portage. From Grand Portage he accompanied John 
McDonald of Garth westward up the Saskatchewan river to Fort 
George, which was found to be in a ruinous condition ; and here he 
spent the winter. 


In the spring of 1800 Thompson made an expedition on horse- 
back from Fort George to Fort Augustus, and thence to Rocky 
Mountain House. On May 5 he embarked at Rocky Mountain 
House on the North Saskatchewan river, and made a survey of it to 
" The Elbow." On May 7 he " found the English [Hudson's Bay 
Company] encamped for building " at the mouth of a creek flowing 
in from the right, which he calls Sturgeon Creek (Buck Lake Creek), 
and on the same evening he reached White Mud House, where a clerk 
named Hughes was in charge for the North- West Company. This 
post was situated on the north bank in Section 30, Tp. 51, Range 2, 
west of the Fifth Meridian. On May 9 he reached Fort Augustus, 
and on May 12 Fort George, having passed a few miles above it what 
he designates as "Isle of Scotland, North- West Company, 1800 and 
1 801," apparently the island now known as Fort island, in Section I2> 
Tp. 55, R. 8, west of the Fourth Meridian. 

On May 18 he again left Fort George, and on May 20 passed 
Umfreville's old house, in Section 4, Tp. 53, R. 25, west of the Third 
Meridian, where this trader had spent the winters of 1784-8. On 
May 21 he passed Island House, a mile and a half above the mouth of 
Birch Brook, near Manchester House of the Hudson's Bay Company ; 
and on May 22, Turtle River House, a mile and a half below the 
mouth of Turtle Brook, evidently in Section 4, Tp. 46, R. 18, west 



of the Third Meridian. Alexander Henry the younger describes this 
house as situated on a low bottom on the south side of the river. On 
May 28 Thompson camped at the Forks, and on June 7 he arrived at 
the mouth of the Saskatchewan. His note-books give no further record 
of his proceedings that summer, but a summary in his own handwriting 
states that he continued east to Grand Portage, and returned to Rocky 
Mountain House. He adds that " Mr. Duncan McGillivray came 
and wintered also, to prepare to cross the mountains." 

From Rocky Mountain House Thompson set out on horseback, 
with five men and three pack-horses, on October 5. He travelled 
up the Clearwater river, and over to the Red Deer river, which he 
ascended till he reached the mouth of William Creek, a small brook 
in latitude 51° 41' 41" N., longitude 114° 56' 40" W. There, in a 
camp of Piegan Indians, he remained for a few days, and from there he 
rode twenty-two miles west to the foot of the mountains to meet a band 
of Kutenai, consisting of twenty-six men and seven women, who had 
crossed the mountain in the hope of being able to reach his trading 
post. He returned at once with them, in order to encourage them to 
proceed, for the Piegan did their utmost to hinder and annoy them. 
When they were ready to return to their own country west of the 
mountains, he sent La Gassi and Le Blanc along to spend the following 
winter with them. The route which they took, in order to avoid the 
Piegan, was up the north side of the Saskatchewan river. These 
two men. La Gassi and Le Blanc, were therefore in all probability the 
first white men to cross the mountains at the head of the Saskatchewan 
to the upper waters of the Columbia river. 

On November 17, accompanied by Duncan McGillivray, and 
attended by four men, he set out on horseback along the trail up 
Clearwater river, crossed Red Deer river, and reached Bow river at 
a point opposite to where the town of Calgary now stands, in latitude 
51° 2' 56" N., longitude 113° 59' W. From here he surveyed the 
north-east side of the river down to a short distance below the bend, 
where he crossed it and went on to the Spitchee or Highwood river, 
which he reached two miles above its mouth. From here he turned 
a little west of south, and reached a camp of the Pikenows, or Piegan, 
in latitude 50° 35' 30" N., probably on Tongue Flag Creek. After 
stopping here for a short time in order to establish friendly relations 
with these Indians, he turned north-westward and again reached Bow 
river at a point which he places in latitude 51° 13' 57" N., longitude 
114° 48' 22" W., a short distance above the mouth of Ghost river. 


From here he followed the Bow river upwards, on its south bank for 
three miles, and then fording the stream he followed the trail on its 
north bank to the steep cliffs of the mountains near where the town 
of Exshaw is now situated.^ Thence he returned to his old camp on 
the Bow river, and, crossing the stream, struck northward to Rocky 
Mountain House, which he reached on December 3. 

During the same year Duncan McGillivray made a traverse west- 
ward from Rocky Mountain House, at first up the north side of the 
North Saskatchewan river for eight miles, thence across country to 
Brazeau river and up it to Brazeau lake, three miles beyond which 
he " proceeded to cross the Chain of Mountains that separates the 
sources of the North Branch (Brazeau) and the Athabaska River." 
Continuing still farther westward, he travelled four miles down a stream 
flowing towards the west into Athabaska river, from which point he 
returned to Rocky Mountain House. His traverse is carefully laid 
down in Thompson's note-book. 


During the winter of 1800-1801, Thompson remained at Rocky 
Mountain House, trading with the Indians, working out old observa- 
tions and taking new ones, although the last record to be found for 
the winter is dated March 18. 

In June Thompson made "a journey into the Rocky Mountains 
by land," which is to be found in his note-books worked out by 
latitude and departure. Accompanied by Hughes and seven men 
and an Indian guide, he followed the Saskatchewan up to a point 
twenty-eight miles above Rocky Mountain House, measured in a 
straight line. Here he left the main river and struck southward up the 
valley of Sheep river to its source in one of the eastern ranges of the 
Rocky Mountains. At this point it was found impossible to take the 

^ Near this point, McGillivray killed and preserved a mountain sheep, which 
about three years later formed the basis of three names — Ovis canadensis 
Shaw, Ovis cervina Desmarest, and " belier de montagne " of Geofifroy (later 
latinized as Ovis montana by Cuvier). Although wild sheep had long been 
known to inhabit North America, this specimen was the first to reach the 
hands of systematic naturalists. Curiously enough, the two names first men- 
tioned were published so nearly at the same time that the question of priority 
has been the subject even within the past few years of considerable controversy. 
Though the evidence is not absolutely conclusive, the name cattadensis seems 
best entitled to recognition. The important matter in the present connection, 
however, is the locality from which the type came. [E. A. P.] 


horses further ; and, as the guide knew of no other pass, the party 
returned to the Saskatchewan river. An effort was made to ascend 
the stream in a canoe ; but the river was in flood, and it proved 
impossible to stem the current. The attempt to cross the mountains 
was therefore abandoned for the time ; and the party returned to 
Rocky Mountain House, where they arrived on June 30. 

The remainder of the summer and the following winter were spent 
at Rocky Mountain House ; but in August and September Thompson 
made a trip to Fort Augustus and back on horseback. 


In May, 1802, he again descended the Saskatchewan river, and 
continued on to Lake Superior, this time to the mouth of the Kamini- 
stikwia river at Fort William, to which place the headquarters of the 
North-West Company had been moved the previous year. From Fort 
William he returned westward to Lesser Slave lake, though by what 
route does not appear from his journals. Probably he ascended the 
Saskatchewan, and crossed overland from Fort Augustus to Athabaska 
river, as he had done in 1799. Between October 21 and November 9 
he ascended from the mouth of Lesser Slave Lake river to the house 
on the west side of Lesser Slave lake, which he places in latitude 
55° 32' 36" N., on or near the site of the present trading post of the 
Hudson's Bay Company. Thence he continued northward to a post 
which he speaks of as the "Forks of the Peace River," ^ a name which 
still survives in a slightly changed form as Peace River Landing. He 
places this post five miles above the mouth of Smoky river, in latitude 
56° 8' 17" N., and longitude 117° 13' 14" W. ; at that time the variation 
of the magnetic needle was 23^° East, 


The year 1803 Thompson spent almost wholly at Peace River 
Forks. From January 18 to June 5 he kept a meteorological 
journal at this post, jotting down at the same time many interesting 
notes. On June 5 he notices the arrival of a canoe of the X Y 
Company, who put up one hundred yards farther up the stream, 
"where they are going to build." From June 5 to June 24 he 

^ This post had been built by Alexander Mackenzie ten years before, when 
he was on his journey from Lake Athabaska to the Pacific ocean. 


was hunting in the vicinity ; but on June 25 the meteorological 
journal was resumed, and kept up regularly to December 11. Be- 
tween this date and December 29, Thompson made a trip with 
dogs to Lesser Slave lake and back. 


On February 29 he set ofF up the river on foot, with a team of 
dogs to carry his provisions and baggage, and reached " Rocky Moun- 
tain House," ^ the most westerly post of the North- West Company at 
that time, on March 6. This post he places in latitude 56° 12' 54" N., 
longitude 1 20° 38' W. After remaining here for two days, he once more 
turned eastward, and retraced his steps down the river, and arrived at 
Peace River Forks on March 13. 

On March 15, probably accompanied by his wife and two chil- 
dren, he started on the long journey to Fort William. He travelled 
down the river on the ice to Horse Shoe House, in latitude 57° 8' N. ; 
here he remained from March 20 to April 30, until the ice should 
break and clear out of the river ; then he continued his journey down 
the river by canoe. On May 2 he passed a post of the North-West 
Company, which he calls Fort Vermilion, though it was considerably 
higher up the river than the present Fort Vermilion of the Hudson's 
Bay Company. Below it the following places are recorded by him in 
succession : " Old Fort du Tremble " ; " Fort Liard, N. W. Co., Mr. 
Fraser " (not far from the site of the present Fort Vermilion) ; "Fort, Mr. 
Wintzel, N. W. Co." (five miles below the lower portion of Vermilion 
Falls) ; and " Grand Marais, N. W. Co., now deserted." On May 12, 
in company with a trader named Wentzel, he arrived at Athabaska 
House, on the north shore of Lake Athabaska, in latitude 58° 42' 50" 
N., on the site of the present Fort Chipewyan.^ Here he remained 
for three days ; then he continued his survey across Lake Athabaska 
and up Athabaska river. On May 17 he passed Peter Pond's old 

^ This post must not be confounded with Rocky Mountain House on the 
Saskatchewan river, which was Thompson's home for so many winters. 

* The old fort which had been built by Roderick Mackenzie in 1788, where 
Philip Turner spent the winter of 1791-92, was on the south side of Lake 
Athabaska in latitude 58° 38' N., longitude 1 10° 26i' W., about twenty-five miles 
east of Fort Chipewyan, on the point marked Old Fort Point on J. B. Tyrrell's 
map of Lake Athabaska. It was from this post that Alexander Mackenzie 
started, in 1789 and 1792, on his journeys of discovery down the Mackenzie 
river to the Arctic ocean, and up the Peace river and westward to the Pacific 


trading post on the bank of the river, where Pond, the first white trader 
who had ventured so far west and north as this river, had wintered in 
1778—9 ; and on May 19 he reached the trading post at the mouth of 
the Clearwater river. From here he proceeded along the route he 
had already surveyed, up Clearwater river, across the Methy Portage, 
down the Churchill river to Frog Portage, and thence by Cumber- 
land House to Fort William. 

After a short stay at headquarters, he turned back toward the west. 
This time he travelled up the Kaministikwia river to Dog lake, 
through this lake, and up the Dog river, and across to Lac des Mille 
Lacs, where the North- West Company had a post to the right of two 
islands in latitude 48° 48' 27" N., and thence westward to Lake La 
Croix and Rainy lake, and thence onward by the usual route to 
Cumberland House, where he arrived on September 8. 

From Cumberland House he now turned aside to spend the winter 
on his old trading ground in what he calls the " Muskrat Country." 
On September 10 he struck off northward through Sturgeon, Goose, 
and Athapapuskow lakes to Cranberry Portage, which he crossed into 
Cranberry lake. At the narrows in this lake he left men to build a 
trading post. He himself continued on to Reed lake, ascended Little 
Swan river, and portaged into File lake, whence he descended File 
river into Burntwood lake, and continued on to Missinipi (Churchill) 
river, down which he travelled for a short distance to an old fort 
(Nelson House), which he reached on October i. After making 
arrangements to provision this post, he continued on down the river, 
and arrived at Musquawegan (Bear's Backbone) Post on October 6, 
in latitude 56° 13' 7" N., longitude 100° 25' 50" W. The exact loca- 
tion of this post has never been determined, except as it is shown on 
Thompson's map, for no white man is known to have visited this place 
since his time. Here Thompson remained until the following spring, 
with his old schoolmate, George Charles, opposing him in the interest 
of the Hudson's Bay Company. 

ocean. When Thompson passed it in 1804, it seems to have been abandoned, 
as the North-West Company had moved the post over to the present site 
of Fort Chipewyan at the west end of the lake some years before. The 
Hudson's Bay Company's trading post at this lake was first built by Peter 
Fidler in 1802, and was called Nottingham House, after the North-Westers 
had already been in occupation of the country for twenty-four years. Fidler 
occupied the post until 1806, when he abandoned it, as he had had no success 
in trading with the Indians. 


On May 27 and 28, 1805, he made a journey to the post at 
the south end of (South) Indian lake and Churchill river, which he 
places in latitude 56° 48' 20" N. This place is about two hundred and 
fifty miles from Fort Churchill on Hudson Bay, and is the most north- 
easterly point reached by Thompson while in the service of the North- 
West Company. On June i he left Musquawegan, and travelled 
upstream to the Forks of the Missinipi (Churchill), which he reached 
on June 4, and thence he proceeded by Burntwood Portage, File river, 
and Cranberry Portage to Cumberland House, where he arrived on 
June 17. Here he learned for the first time that the North-West and 
X Y Companies had united, by an agreement signed on November 
5, 1804. He left Cumberland House on June 23, and returned to 
the fort on Cranberry lake, where he arrived on June 27, and re- 
mained until July 25. On this date he set out for Reindeer lake. 
He carried over the Cranberry portage, passed through Athapapuskow 
lake and river, crossed Goose lake, and descended Goose river to 
Sturgeon-weir river, up which he turned to Beaver lake. Thence he 
followed the regular route to Trade (Frog) Portage, descended the 
Churchill river, and ascended Reindeer river to Reindeer lake, 
where he arrived on August 4. Here he left Benjamin Frobisher to 
build a house close to the old houses, and he himself returned to 
Cumberland House, where he arrived on August 24. On August 12 
he met Peter Fidler, of the Hudson's Bay Company, going to Lake 
Athabaska, but for some reason these old companions passed each other 
without speaking. On September 10 he again started north to Cran- 
berry Portage, and thence to Reed lake, where he had wintered in 
1794-95, while in the service of the Hudson's Bay Company. Here 
he built a house some distance east of the old one which he had occu- 
pied eleven years before, and remained for the winter quietly trading 
furs and taking astronomical observations. 

After Thompson completed his surveys of this "Muskrat Country," 
no further information was obtained about it for nearly a century, and 
when, in 1896, I travelled through it, the only map of any service 
which was available was that drawn by David Thompson in 181 3 
from surveys made at this time. 



On June 10, 1806, he left this post in the Muskrat country 
never to return to it, and returned to Cumberland House, where he 
arrived on June 14. Thence he proceeded at once to Fort William. 
Here he received instructions to attempt once more to open trade 
relations w^ith the Indians west of the Rocky Mountains, and he at 
once returned by way of Cumberland House, where Harmon met him 
on September 11, to his old home at Rocky Mountain House, where 
he arrived on October 29. Here he remained trading with the 
Indians throughout the following winter, and preparing for his journey 
across the mountains in the following spring. 


On May 10, accompanied by his wife and family, Thompson 
started from Rocky Mountain House to cross the mountains. Finan 
McDonald took a canoe with provisions up the Saskatchewan river, 
while Thompson himself travelled on horseback on the north side of 
the river. On June 3 they reached Kootenay Plain, a wide, open flat 
on the north side of the river within the mountains, in latitude 
56° 2' 6" N. ; and on June 6 they reached the Forks. They then 
turned up the south branch of the stream ; but after ascending it for 
three miles were obliged to stop, as they could take the canoes no 
further. They remained here till June 25, when they started across 
the mountains, packing all their supplies with them on horses. At 
I P.M. on June 25 they reached the height of land in latitude 
51° 48' 27" N.^ Thence they descended along the banks of a mountain 
torrent (Blaeberry river) to "Kootanie" (Columbia) river, which they 
reached on June 30, in latitude 51° 25' \\' N., longitude 116° 52' 45" 
W., a mile or two north-west of Moberly station on the Canadian 
Pacific Railway. Jaco Finlay had been across the mountains to this 
place the year before, and had built a canoe and left it in what he sup- 

^ The pass by which Thompson here crossed the mountains is now known 
as Howse Pass, although Joseph Howse, a clerk of the Hudson's Bay Company, 
did not begin to use the pass until 1809, two years after Thompson had made 
his first trip over it. The eastern portion of the pass below the mouth of 
Whirlpool River was examined by Dr. Hector in 1859, and described by him 
in The Journals, Detailed Reports, and Observations relative to the Exploration 
by Captain Palliser, London, 1863, pp. 122-130. 


posed to be a safe place for Thompson's use when he should arrive, 
but it was found to have been so badly broken in the meantime as to 
be now utterly useless. He camped here, near the mouth of the 
Blaeberry, and the members of the party for several days devoted them- 
selves to repacking their stuff and building canoes. On July 12, having 
placed all the trading goods in canoes, they set out and ascended (not 
descended) the Columbia river, and reached Lower Columbia lake 
(now Lake Windermere) on July 18. At the south end of this lake 
Thompson began to build in latitude 50° 31' 24" N. ; but finding the 
place unsuitable, he moved on July 29 down the river to about a mile 
from the lake, and built " Kootanae House " on the west side of the 
Columbia river, in latitude 50° 32' i^" N., longitude 115° 51' 40" W., 
variation 24^° East. Here he remained for the rest of the year, trading 
with the Kutenai Indians, and taking meteorological and astronomical 
observations. With the chief of the Flatbow Indians for a guide he 
made a trip for a few days down the banks of the Kootenay river. 
He also carefully measured the heights of some of the neighbouring 
mountains, from a measured base of 6,920 feet. Mount Nelson, to 
the west of the fort, he found to be 7,223 feet above the surface of 
the lake, which would give it a height of 9,900 feet above the sea — a 
height 100 feet lower than that given on Dr. Dawson's map of 1885. 


On April 20, 1808, Thompson set out with canoes toward the 
south, and the next day reached the portage to the " Flat Bow " or 
" McGillivray's " (Kootenay) river, which he calls " McGillivray's 
Portage." From here he descended the " Flat Bow " (Kootenay) 
river in a canoe, making a careful survey with a compass, checked 
by latitudes. On April 24 he passed the mouth of the "Torrent" 
(St. Mary's) river, and on April 27 he reached the mouth of the 
" Fine Meadow " (Tobacco) river in Montana. On May 6 he 
reached the Kootenay Falls, and portaged past them, and two days 
later he reached a camp of Flatheads and Kutenai in latitude 
48° 42' 52" N., longitude 116° W., at or near Bonner's Ferry in Idaho. 
Having induced these Indians to promise to trade with him, he again 
set off on May 13, and on the next day reached Flat Bow or 
Kootenay lake at Kootenay Landing. From here he returned up 
the river to the camp of the Flatheads, whence he took horses and 
travelled in a north-easterly direction up " McDonald's " (Moyie, or 


Choecoos, or Grand Quete) river along the line of the Canadian 
Pacific Railway ; and on May i8 he reached McGillivray's (Kootenay) 
river, about Fort Steele. He crossed the river, followed up the bank 
across Wild Horse Creek and " Lussier " (Sheep) river, and reached 
Kootanae House on June 5. From here, taking his family with him, he 
continued northward down the Columbia to the mouth of the Blae- 
berry river, from which place he crossed the mountains with the furs 
obtained during the year, and reached Kootenay Plain on June 22. 
On this journey he and his party were obliged to kill and eat several 
of their horses, as they were unable to obtain other provisions. 

At Kootenay Plain, Thompson embarked in a canoe, and descended 
the Saskatchewan. At Boggy Hall, he left his family ; but he himself 
continued down the river as fast as possible, and on to Rainy lake. 
On his way he notes some places of interest in his note-books. The 
first is Muskako Fort, four and a half hours below Wolf Brook, 
doubtless at the bend in the river in Tp. 30, R. 6, west of the Fifth 
Meridian, where "North-West Company" is marked on his large 
map. "Old Island Fort," three hours and a half above Fort George, 
is the "Isle of Scotland" of his journey of 1800. Fort George was 
probably unoccupied at that time, having been abandoned in favour of 
Fort Vermilion,^ to which place the headquarters of the district had 
been removed. Two days were spent at Fort Vermilion ; then on 
July 3 the journey was resumed. On July 4, Thompson passed 
"burnt Fort de I'lsle," his Island House of 1800; "the Crossing 
Place," probably near Fort Carlton ; " Fort de Milieu," probably the 
same as his Upper Hudson House of 1794. Three hours and a half 
after passing the Forks, he reached Fort St. Louis, near the site of the 
present Fort a la Corne. Three-quarters of an hour later he passed 
the site of Fort a la Corne, about four miles down the river, at the 
extreme north-east corner of the Hudson's Bay Company's reserve, 
on the site of the old French Fort des Prairies,^ On August 2, 

^ Fort Vermilion was situated, says Alexander Henry the younger, in 
latitude 53" 51' 7" N., on the north side of the Saskatchewan river, "in a long 
flat bottom of meadow directly opposite the Vermilion River." This post was 
occupied by Alexander Henry the younger from 1808 to 1810, when it was 
abandoned in favour of White Earth Fort. But before long it was again 
occupied, for in 1814 Gabriel Franch^re "found at this post some ninety 
persons, men, women, and children " (Franch^re's Narratii/e, p. 319). 

* There has been a good deal of confusion as to the position of these two 
posts, arising doubtless from the interchange of names. The exact position 
of Fort St. Louis of the North-West Company, which Alexander Henry states 


Thompson reached his destination at Rainy Lake House ; and two days 
later he set out on his return journey westward. On August i8, 
about Wicked Point, on the west shore of Lake Winnipeg, he was 
joined by Alexander Henry, with canoes from Red River on the way 
to Fort Vermilion. The two parties reached Cumberland House 
on August 26 ; and on September 13 and 14 they reached Fort 
Vermilion, Henry a day in advance of Thompson. On September 16, 
Thompson's canoes left for up the river ; while he himself left 
the next day on horseback, and arrived on September 23 at Fort 
Augustus. On October 3 he arrived at Boggy Hall, where he 
probably rejoined his family. Here, sending on the canoes, he took 
men and horses, and set out for the height of land. On October 9 
he passed old Rocky Mountain House, and continued on up the river 
until October 17, when sharp frosts prevented the canoes being 
brought any further. Having therefore camped for a few days to 
rearrange the packs, he set out with the pack-horses on October 22, 
passed the Kootenay Plain on the 24th, and crossed the height of land 
on the 27th. On October 31 he once more reached the Columbia 
river. From here he sent the horses southward through the woods, 
while he ascended the river in a boat as far as a hoard that had been 
built beside the river the year before, in latitude 50" 53' 34" N., apparently 
not far from the mouth of Spillimacheen river. From here he sent 
Finan McDonald southward with the canoes, to establish a fort and 

was abandoned in 1805, is not quite certain, but it was probably close to the 
present store of the Hudson's Bay Company. The old French fort was at a 
bend several miles farther down the river, about the north-east corner of the 
Hudson's Bay reserve. In 1896, the old trails and marks where the stockades 
had been were distinctly traceable. The fort would appear to have been built 
first by Legardeur de St. Pierre in 1753 ; and it was occupied by six men when 
visited by Anthony Hendry of the Hudson's Bay Company in May, 1755. I" 
August, 1772, the place was visited by Mathew Cocking, another employee of the 
Hudson's Bay Company, and it was then found to be occupied by an Indian camp. 
But in the winter of 1776, when the place was visited by Alexander Henry the 
elder, it was in charge of James Finlay, who had a fort with an area of about 
an acre enclosed in a stockade, and from fifty to eighty men for its defence. 
After the abandonment of Fort St. Louis by the North-West Company in 1805, 
the location seems to have been unoccupied until about 1846, when the Hudson's 
Bay Company rebuilt on the site of the old French fort. In 1887, when in charge 
of Philip Turner, the grandson of either Philip or John Turnor, it was moved 
three miles up the river to its present position. Dr. Elliott Coues, in his New 
Light on the Earlier History of the Greater Northwest^ New York, 1897, puts 
the positions of both these posts too far up the river. 


winter at the falls on the Kootenay river ; while he himself went 
on horseback to the old Kootanae House, where he arrived on 
November lO, and where he spent the winter trading with the 
Kutenai Indians. James McMillan was his assistant, and Jaco Finlay 
was hunting in the vicinity. 


After the winter's trade at Kootanae House was finished, on 
April 17, 1809, Thompson removed a short distance down the river, 
and camped till the 27th. He then descended the Columbia river in 
a canoe, the horses being at the same time driven through the woods 
to the Mountain Portage, and crossed the mountains to the Saskat- 
chewan. At the Kootenay Plain, at which he arrived on June 18, 
a canoe was built, and loaded with some of the furs which he had 
obtained during the winter. In it he descended the river to Fort 
Augustus,^ where he arrived on June 24, and was welcomed by his 
old friend James Hughes. On June 27, two canoes were sent east- 
ward with his furs, but he himself remained at the fort until July 18. 
On this date, having sent canoes up the Saskatchewan four days 
before him, he set off on horseback towards the mountains. Near 
the mouth of Wolf Creek, he caught up to and joined the canoes, 
and sent back the horses as they had come. Travelling up the river, 
he reached Kootenay Plain on August 3. Here he remained for a 
few days, arranging the packs for the journey across the mountains, 
and on August 8 he started westward on horseback. Next day he 
met Joseph Howse, a clerk of the Hudson's Bay Company, who had 
left Fort Edmonton on July 18 on an exploring trip, returning again 
to the east. On August 1 1 he crossed the height of land, and two 
days later he reached the Columbia. He ascended this river as far as 
McGillivray's Portage, which he reached on August 20 ; then he 
descended the Kootenay river, and on August 29 he reached the 
Great Road of the Flatheads, where he had come to the large camp 
of these Indians in the spring of 1808, near Bonner's Ferry. 

Having obtained horses from the Indians, he set out toward the 
south on September 6, and reached Pend d'Oreille lake on September 8 ; 
and the next day he arrived at the mouth of Clark's Fork, where 

^ This was new Fort Augustus on the site of the present city of Edmonton. 
The old fort twenty miles farther down the river had been destroyed by the 
Blackfeet in 1807. 


it empties into the lake. Here he found a large camp of Flatheads and 
other Indians. On September lO he found a spot on a peninsula on 
the east side of this lake, a mile and a half from the mouth of the river, in 
latitude 48° 1 1' 30" N., where he built a house, which he called Kullyspell 
House. Here he remained for about two weeks, to see that building 
operations were being pushed on as rapidly as possible. On Septem- 
ber 27 he rode around the north side of the lake, and down the river 
flowing from it to latitude 48° 51' N., and returned on October 6. On 
October 1 1 he set off again on horseback, and travelled about sixty 
miles in a south-easterly direction up the Saleesh river, called on his 
map the Nemissoolatakoo river (Clark's Fork). Turning aside from 
this river near Thompson's Prairie, he travelled first north-east and 
then north-west, till he reached the Kootenay river above the falls, 
where he met his clerk, McMillan, bringing the canoes loaded with 
trading goods that had been left behind him on the Columbia river. 
Here, sending the horses ahead of him, he embarked in one of the 
canoes, descended to the Flathead Road, crossed over to Pend d'Oreille 
lake, and arrived at Kullyspell House on October 30. 

On November 2 he set off again on horseback up the river, and 
a week later reached a point in latitude 47° 34' 35" N., near the present 
station of Woodlin on the Northern Pacific Railway, where he built 
a house which he called Saleesh House. The position of this house 
is well described on page 418. 


In the spring of 1 810 he made several expeditions in the vicinity 
of Saleesh House. On February 23 he started out on horseback with 
Mousseau, Lussier, Boulard, and two Indians to look for birch bark for 
canoes. They travelled up the river for fifty miles, examining the 
woods closely as they went, until they reached the great camp of the 
Salish Indians, which was situated on the Flathead river, twenty 
miles above its mouth, in latitude 47" 21' 14.'' N., and arrived back at 
Saleesh House on March 6. From March 8 to March 14 he made 
another journey to the Salish camp, and in this case he returned 
down the river in a canoe which he had had built at the camp. And 
from March 17 to March 25 he made a third journey to the same 
camp, returning in this case also down the river in a canoe, while his 
horses were sent in loaded with furs. On both trips down the river he 
made a careful survey of it. 


After his return he engaged Jaco Finlay in his old capacity as clerk 
and interpreter. 

On April 6 he sent off Mousseau, Beaulieu, and several others with 
ten packs of furs to Pend d'Oreille lake. 

On April 19 he left Saleesh House and embarked in canoes down 
the Saleesh river, and on the evening of Saturday the 2ist he arrived 
at Kullyspell House, where Finan McDonald had spent the winter. 
Before leaving he sent McDonald up to Saleesh House to spend the 

While at Kullyspell House he decided to make a further investiga- 
tion of the Pend d'Oreille river down to its junction with the 
Columbia, in order to determine definitely whether it and the Columbia 
could be used as a trade route to the east or not. Accordingly, on 
April 24 he embarked in a canoe, crossed the lake and descended the 
river to latitude 48° 51' N., twenty- two miles from its mouth, but as it 
proved to be quite unnavigable he decided to return eastward up the 
Kootenay river as before. Returning he reached Kullyspell House on 
May I. 

On May 9 he left Kullyspell House for the Kootenay river, and on 
the 17th, accompanied by McMillan, he started up that river with his 
brigade of canoes. He reached McGillivray's Portage on June 6, and 
thence descended the Columbia as far as Mountain Portage, where he 
arrived on June 16. He then crossed to the Saskatchewan, and arrived 
at the Forks in the mountains on June 19, having left the men to 
follow him with the pack-horses. Here he embarked in a canoe, and 
proceeded down stream. On his way he passed the ruins of old Fort 
Augustus ; and on the next day he reached White Earth House,^ 
where Alexander Henry was in charge for the North-West Company, 
and a trader named Henry Hallett for the Hudson's Bay Company. 
This house appears to have been at the mouth of White Earth river, 
a short distance below the present site of Victoria. On July 4 he 
reached Cumberland House, and on July 22 Rainy Lake House. 

After loading four canoes with goods to trade, he again turned 
westward, and on September 6 reached White Earth House on the 
Saskatchewan. On September ii, having sent his four canoes on 
ahead of him, he started on horseback for Fort Augustus, where he seems 
to have left his family for the winter. Thence he rode up the valley of 

1 According to Henry, Thompson had his family with him when he passed 
this house. 


the Saskatchewan to the foot of the mountains, but as his canoes had 
been intercepted and turned back by the Piegan, he was obliged to 
return down the river, and find a new trail to the Columbia river 
by Athabaska Pass at the head-waters of the Athabaska river. 

Collecting his men, horses, and supplies at a point on the banks of 
the Saskatchewan river about sixty miles below Rocky Mountain 
House, where the North-West Company had had a trading post for a 
couple of years, which they named Boggy Hall, he started westward 
through the woods on an old footpath that had been used by the 
Assiniboin Indians when going to their hunting grounds. Taking a 
north-westerly course he reached the Athabaska river at the mouth of 
a brook in about latitude 53° 38' N., a few miles below where the 
Grand Trunk Pacific Railway now reaches it. The next day he 
crossed the river and continued up along its bank to Brule lake, to 
an island on which was a deserted cabin previously built by some half- 
breed or Indian hunters. As there was no food here for his horses, 
he moved northward for five miles to a more favourable spot where 
he camped and made snow-shoes and sleds for his journey across the 

On December 29 he set out with sleds and dogs, and also with four 
horses to help them for a short distance. 


On January 6 he left the four horses somewhere about the mouth 
of the Miette river, near where Yellowhead Pass turns off to the 
west. He then crossed the height of land by Athabaska Pass 
which was afterwards used for many years by the Hudson's Bay 
Company as their main line of travel from the Great Plains to the 
valley of the Columbia river. Thence he descended Wood river 
to the Columbia at the month of Canoe river. He reached it on 
January 18, and continued up the Columbia, hauling the sleds, for 
twelve miles. Here some of his men mutinied, and he was obliged to 
return to the Canoe river, where he remained for the winter. 

Having constructed a clinker-built canoe of cedar boards hewn from 
trees in the surrounding forest, and sewed after the manner of a birch 
canoe, as he had no nails with which to fasten it, he embarked on the 
Columbia river on April 17. 

Instead of descending, he ascended the river, which was new to him 
as far as Blaeberry Creek, overcoming natural obstacles as he met 


them, and on May 14 he reached McGillivray's Portage at the head 
of Upper Columbia lake. Thence he descended the Kootenay 
river to its south-eastern bend, and having here obtained horses, 
crossed to Saleesh House on Clark's Fork, in Montana. Having built 
a canoe, he descended Clark's Fork, passed through Pend d'Oreille 
lake, and continued down the river to the site of the present town 
of Cusick in Washington. From here he travelled, with the aid of 
thirteen horses, to Spokane House, ten miles north-west of the 
present city of Spokane, where Finan McDonald was living at the 
time. This trading post is stated by Thompson to have been situated 
on the east bank of Spokane river, a mile above the mouth of Little 
Spokane river. From Spokane House a ride of three days brought 
him to Ilthkoyape (Kettle) Falls on the Columbia river. After some 
difficulty in obtaining cedar boards with which to build a canoe, he set 
out down the river on July 3, and on July 15, at i p.m., he landed at 
Fort Astoria, the newly built trading post of the Pacific Fur Company 
at the mouth of the Columbia river. 

After spending a few days with McDougall, the trader in charge 
at Astoria, Thompson started back up the Columbia. On July 28 
he reached the Cascades, which he had difficulty in passing on account 
of the hostility of the Indians. On August 5 he reached the mouth 
of Shawpatin (Snake) river, up which he struggled with the canoe 
for " 56 " miles till, on August 8, he reached the southern end of tne 
road leading to the Spokane river, in latitude 46° 36' 13" N. Here he 
laid up the canoe, and rode overland to Spokane House. Thence he 
rode to Ilthkoyape Falls, and, having built a canoe there, ascended the 
Columbia river to Canoe river, thus completing the survey of the 
whole river from its source to its mouth. 

As there is lacking in Thompson's manuscript a description of his 
voyage up this part of the Columbia, and as it is important to complete 
his record of the survey of the river, the following diary has been com- 
piled from Thompson's note-books : 

September 2. — Thompson's party left Ilthkoyape Falls at i P.M., 
accompanied by eight canoes of Indians, and paddled upstream against 
a strong current until 5.20 p.m., when they put up for the night. 

September 3. — The party embarked at 5.30 a.m. Shortly before 
noon they reached, in latitude 48° 52' N., a portage on the east bank 
1,100 yards long. All afternoon they paddled against a strong current, 
and at night they camped five miles below the mouth of Pend d'Oreille 


September 4. — They embarked at 5.50 a.m., and ascended a swift 
current all day. They crossed the international boundary line, passed 
the mouth of Pend d'Oreille river and the site of the present town of 
Trail, and at 6,10 p.m. pitched camp at the mouth of Murphy Creek. 
On the right the country was becoming rapidly more rocky. 

September 5. — They embarked at 5.50 A.M., and about noon reached 
the mouth of the Kootenay river. Here the Indians who had been 
accompanying them, left them. They camped for the night near the 
site of the town of Castlegar. 

September 6. — They set off at 5.40 a.m., and travelled up the river 
till 3.15 p.m., when they camped for the night near the site of the 
present village of Deer Park. The hills now came down close to the 
river, those to the west being thickly covered with forest, but those to 
the east being rather bare and rocky. Tracks of reindeer and the 
black-tailed chevreuil were plentiful, but they hunted without success. 

September 7. — They set off at 6 a.m., and travelled northward over 
Lower Arrow lake against a head wind and high waves, and camped 
at 6.30 P.M. on the shores of the lake in latitude 49° 44' N., about 
three miles south of Edgewood. 

September 8. — They set off at 5.38 A.M., passed through the Lower 
Arrow lake, and camped on the bank of the river between the two 
Arrow lakes, about the mouth of Mosquito Creek. "The lake we 
have passed has always current in the middle and very often from side 
to side. The last half has a ledge of low wood and land with fine 
shore on both sides ; the middle steep, ugly rocks ; and the lower end 
rocks and good shore by turns." 

September 9. — They set off at 5.40 a.m., and soon entered Upper 
Arrow lake. Through this lake they pushed on northward, and 
camped somewhere near the site of the hotel at Halcyon Hot Springs. 

September 10. — They set off at 5.15 a.m., and early in the day 
reached Arrowhead at the north end of the lake. Here they entered 
the river, and, encountering a heavy current, were often obliged to 
pole their canoe, or haul it against the stream with a line. Though 
much delayed by rain, they travelled till 6 p.m. 

September 11. — They embarked at 5.35 a.m., and ascended the 
stream until 5 p.m., when they camped in latitude 51° 2' 13" N. at the 
place to which Finan McDonald had ascended the river in a canoe a 
icv/ weeks before. This was about two miles above the present town 
of Revelstoke, and one mile below the Little Dalles. 

September 12. — They set off at 6 A.M., and ascended the stream 
until 5.15 P.M., when they camped for the night in latitude 51° 11' N. 
" From early morning the Dalles very bad, all the rest is very strong 
current and rapids. Came up with the line." 

September 13. — They set off at 6.45 a.m., and camped at 5.30 P.M. 
in latitude 51° 22' 30" N. , 


j.1^ September 14. — They set off at 7.15 a.m. At noon they were in 
^\^'' latitude 51° 30' N., two miles below the Dalles des Morts. In the 
oV^^^'" afternoon they ascended the Dalles des Morts, which were destined 
-^ to be the graveyard of the Columbia river in the early days of the 

western fur-trade ; and the following is Thompson's survey and de- 
scription of these rapids : " N. 78 W. \ [mile] N. 50 W. 1/8, N. 36 W. 
2/3, W. 1/8, N. 35 W. J, all bad, N. 50 W. 1/8, N. 36 W. 2/3. 
Strong rapid current, lined on the left, good to run, W. 1/8 strong 
rapid, discharged all the heavy pieces and for 250 yards carried, lined 
up the canoe on the left, having crossed — N. 30 W. | m. Beginning 
of Co. A fall and rush of water. Discharged all for 150 yds. and 
lined up, quite light, very dangerous to line down. The rest of Co. 
strong Rapid Current. Lined the whole up loaded. On the right 
end of Course a large rock between which and the shore lined and 
handed. Here the canoes going down ought to bring up N. 40 W. f, 
N. 10 E. 1/6, Strong Rapid, Course N. 30 W. \, N. 45 W. |, N. 35 
W. i, N. 50 W. i, N. 60 W. \, N. 50 W. 1. Crossed over in middle 
of Course and camped at 5.50 p.m. Sight a large bold mountain on 
the right. Still much snow on them. The river is very strong 
Current. I suppose loaded canoes must line down much of the 

September 15. — They set off at 5,15 A.M., and ascended a rapid 
current, with dangerous rocky points all day. They camped for the 
night on the bank of the stream in latitude 51'' 45' N. 

September 16. — They set off at 10 A.M., and first ascended a long 
strong rapid, after which the current became more moderate. 

September 17. — They set off at 6.30 A.M., and travelled till 6.30 P.M. 
up a constant rapid stream to camp in latitude 52° 31' N. 

September 18. — They embarked at 7.15 A.M., and about noon 
reached Thompson's old hut at the mouth of the Canoe river. They 
had hoped to find some of their associates of the North-West Com- 
pany from across the mountains waiting for them here with trading 
supplies, but in this they were disappointed. Leaving behind them a 
message written in the Iroquois language, they set off up the Canoe 
river, which was the route they expected their friends to use in coming 
from the Athabaska river. 

Thompson ascended Canoe river for forty-eight miles, then returned 
to its mouth. Part of the trading goods for the next year having been 
brought across the mountains, he sent them down the river to Ilthkoy- 
ape Falls ; while he himself crossed the mountains to Henry's House, 
and returned with the rest of the goods to the falls. Thence he 
walked to Spokane House, where he obtained horses, and returned to 
the Columbia for the goods left at the canoe. 






























z z 











He then rode southward to Spokane House, up the Spokane river 
for twenty-five miles above the house, and northward to Pend d'Oreille 
river at a point twelve miles below Pend d'Oreille lake, after which 
he followed the trail along the north bank of this river upwards to 
Salcesh House, where he arrived on November 19. It seems to have 
been deserted, though Finan McDonald was trading with the Indians 
in the vicinity. After rebuilding the house, he made a trip on horse- 
back up the south branch for thirty miles, but finding no place more 
suitable for a trading post than the one he was occupying, he returned. 


On February 15 he left Saleesh House with Finan McDonald, 
Michel, and ten men in two canoes to go to the Salish Indians to 
trade provisions. They went up to the Salish camp which was then 
pitched on Flathead river, four miles below the mouth of Jocko Creek. 
From here, on February 25, 26, and 27, he rode up the bank of Flat- 
head river to Jocko Creek, up that creek, and over a defile to the 
summit of what is now known as Jumbo Hill in the city of Missoula, 
Montana, near the banks of Hell Gate river, which he called " Courier's 
Branch." Here he spent several hours making a sketch of the surround- 
ing country, and tracing out the route by which Lewis and Clark had 
travelled through it, after which he returned as quickly as possible 
to the Salish camp. On March i he rode northward from the Salish 
camp as far as the south end of Flathead lake, and returned to camp 
the same day. The next day he, with his whole party, started back 
for Saleesh House, where letters had just arrived from John McDonald 
of Garth, who was spending the winter at Kootanae House. 

On March 13 he left Saleesh House, and embarking in his canoe 
started on his voyage to the east Four days later he encamped at the 
north end of the Skeetshoo road where he had reached the river in the 
previous autumn. After a delay of four days McTavish met him with 
horses and men, and took him south to Spokane House. Pushing on 
from there he reached a place eight miles east of Ilthkoyape Falls where 
he found cedar and some birch bark suitable for building canoes. 
Here he stayed hard at work building canoes from March 31 to April 21, 
on which latter date McTavish and McMillan arrived with all the furs 
from Spokane House. 

All was now ready, and on April 22 he bade good-bye to Ilthkoyape 
Falls and, accompanied by McTavish, started with his brigade of six 


canoes for Fort William. He reached the mouth of Canoe river on 
May 5. On May 6 he set out on foot from the Boat Encampment at 
the mouth of Canoe river on the journey which vv^as to take him back 
at last to civilization. Travelling eastward by Athabaska Pass, he 
crossed the height of land on May 8, and on May 1 1 reached the 
house of William Henry on the Athabaska river, in latitude 52° 55' 16" 
N. On May 13 he started down the river in a canoe. On May 20 he 
reached the mouth of Lesser Slave river, up which he pushed to the 
house at its head ; having returned thence, he continued down the 
Athabaska to the Red Deer or La Biche river, which he reached on 
May 25. He turned up this stream, and reached Red Deer lake, or 
Lake La Biche, on May 27. Having crossed the portage from this 
lake, he descended the Beaver river to Isle a la Crosse, and continuing 
down Churchill river, reached Cumberland House on June 18. 
Thence he continued eastward along the ordinary trade route through 
Lake Winnipeg and up the Winnipeg and Rainy rivers to Lake 
Superior. On August 12 he left Fort William, the western head- 
quarters of the North- West Company, and continuing eastward, re- 
surveyed the north shore of Lake Superior as far as Sault Ste. Marie, 
which he reached on August 24. Thence he continued along the 
north shore of Lake Huron, up the French river and down the Ottawa 
river, and arrived at Terrebonne, north of Montreal. Here he took 
up his residence ; and although in the course of his survey of the 
boundary line between the United States and Canada he travelled as 
far west as the Lake of the Woods, he never returned to his old fields 
of labour in the far West, or revisited any of his early homes on the 
banks of the Saskatchewan or Columbia rivers. 





Leave London on HudsorCs Bay Compan'fs Ship — Arrive at 
Stromness — Early education — Set sail for HudsorCs Bay — 
Fort Prince of Wales — Tlf Samuel Hearne — Life at 
Churchill — 7ame Polar Bear at the Factory — Musketoes, 
Sand Flies, and Midgeuks — Companions at the Factory — 
Arrival of George Charles — Means of obtaining a Surveyor 
by Hudson'' s Bay Company. 

IN the month of May 1784 at the Port of London, I 
embarked in the ship Prince Rupert belonging to the 
Hudson's Bay Company, as apprentice and clerk to 
the said company, bound for Churchill Factory, on the west 
side of the bay. None of the Officers or Men had their stock 
of liquor on board from the high price of those articles. On 
the third morning at dawn of day, we perceived a dutch 
lugger about half a mile from us. A boat was directly lowered, 
and the gunner a tall handsome young man, stepped into her 
with four men, they were soon on board of the lugger, a 
case of gin was produced, a glass tasted ; approved, the 
dutchman was in a hurry, as he said a Revenue Cutter was 
cruising near hand, and he must luff off ; a Guinea was paid, 
the case locked, put into the boat, and was soon placed in 


the steerage cabin of our ship. The case was of half inch 
boards tacked together, and daubed red, on opening it there 
were nine square bottles of common glass, each was full with 
the corks cut close to the neck of the bottle, except one with 
a long cork, the one which the gunner had tasted, it was 
taken out a glass handed round and each praised it ; but the 
carpenter who was an old cruiser wished to taste some of the 
other bottles, a cork was drawn, a glass filled, the colour had 
a fine look, it was tasted, spit out and declared to be sea water, 
aU the others were found to be the same. 

The gunner who had thus paid a guinea for three half 
pints of gin, the contents of the bottle, got into a fighting 
humour, but to no purpose, the dutchman was luffing off in 
fine style. The next morning about sun rise, the hills of 
Scotland lying blue in the western horizon, to the east of us 
about two miles, we saw a boat with six men coming from 
the deep sea fishing. The wind was light, and they soon came 
alongside. They were fine manly hardy looking men, they were 
sitting up to their knees in fish, for the boat was full of the 
various kinds they had caught ; Our Captain bought some 
fine halibut and skate fish from them, for which they would 
not take money, but old rope in exchange to make fettels 
for their creels, these words I did not understand until the 
Boatswain, who was a Scotchman told me it was to make 
rope handles to their baskets and buckets. Our captain 
pleased with his bargain, told me to give them a hat full of 
biscuit. Umbrella's were not in those days, but our broad 
brimmed hats served for both purposes. Pleased with the 
ruddy looks of them, I filled my hat as full as it could hold, 
and had to carry it by the edges of the brim. As I passed 
by the Captain I heard him give me a hearty curse, and saying 
I'll never send him for biscuit again ; but the boat's crew 
were so pleased they told me to hand down a bucket, which 
they filled with fresh caught herrings, a great relief from 
salt meat. 


On the sixth day about nine pm. we anchored in the 
harbour of Stromness, where the three ships bound for 
Hudsons Bay had to wait for final instructions and sailing 
orders, as there were no telegraphs in those [days] we were 
delayed three weeks. Until this Voyage I had passed my life 
near to Westminster Abbey, the last seven year in the grey 
coat school on royal foundation. This school was formerly 
something of a Monastery and belonged to Westminster 
Abbey from which it was taken at the suppression of the 
monastic order, but not finally settled until the reign of 
Queen Anne. It is still held of the Dean and Chapter of 
the Abbey by the Tenure of paying a peper corn to the said 
Dean and Chapter on a certain day, which the Governors 
annually pay. 

During the year our holidays at different times were 
about eighteen to twenty days, the greatest part of which I 
spent in this venerable Abbey and it's cloisters, reading the 
monumental inscriptions and [as] often as possible [in] Henry 
the seventh chapel. My strolls were to London Bridge, 
Chelsea, and Vauxhall and S' James's Park. Books in those 
days were scarce and dear and most of the scholars got the 
loan of such books as his parents could lend him. Those 
which pleased us most were the Tales of the Genii, the 
Persian, and Arabian Tales, with Robinson Crusoe and 
Gullivers Travels : these gave us many subjects for discussion 
and how each would behave on various occasions. 

With such an account of the several regions of the Earth 
and on such credible authority, I conceived myself to have 
knowledge to say something of any place I might come to, 
and the blue hills of Scotland werb so distant as to leave to 
imagination to paint them as she pleased. When I woke in 
the morning and went upon deck, I could not help staring 
to see if [what] was before me was reality for I had never 
read of such a place. And at length exclaimed I see no trees, 
to which a Sailor answered No no, people here do not spoil 


their clothes by climbing up trees. One of the first objects 
that drew my attention were several kelp kilns for burning 
sea weed into a kind of potash. The sea weeds were collected 
by a number of Men and Women their legs appeared red 
and swelled. The sea weeds were collected into baskets, the 
rope handles of which were passed round their breasts, each 
helped up the load for one another, and as they carried it 
over rough rocky shore left by the ebb tide to the kilns, the 
sea water streamed down their backs. 

The smoke of the fires of these kilns was as black as that of 
a coal fire. One day our Captain had invited the other 
captains and some gentlemen from the Island to dine with 
him, a little before the time the wind changed, and the smoke 
of five of the kilns came direct on our ship turning day into 
night, the Boatswain was ordered to go and make them put 
out their kilns, which they refused to do ; upon which he 
threatened to send cannon balls among them to smash their 
kilns, but the sturdy fellows replied. You may as well take 
our lives as our means, we will not put them out. Finding 
threats would not do, he enquired how much they gained a 
day : they said, when the kilns burn well they gained ten- 
pence ; upon which he gave to each one shilling ; the kilns 
were then soon put out, the smoke cleared away and 
we again saw daylight. I could not help comparing this 
hard, wet labour for tenpence a day where not even a 
whistle was heard, with the merry songs of the ploughboys 
in England. 

This place was to me a new world, nothing reminded me 
of Westminster Abbey, and my strolls to Vauxhall, Spring 
Gardens and other places, where all was beauty to the eye, 
and verdure to the feet ; here all was rock with very little 
soil, everywhere loose stones that hurt my feet ; not a tree 
to be seen. I sadly missed the old Oaks, under whose shade 
I sat, and played. I could not conceive by what means the 
people lived ; they appeared comfortable, and their low dark 


houses, with a peat fire, the smoke of which escaped by a 
small hole, contained all they required. 

They carried on a considerable contraband trade with 
Holland ; which from the very high duties on Liquors and 
other articles gave them a profitable trade. None of the 
officers and crews of the three Ships had provided themselves 
with liquors for the voyage, as they knew these things could 
be procured here cheaper and better than in London. One 
afternoon, taking a walk with one of the petty officers, we 
entered a low dark house. It was three or four minutes before 
we could perceive the gudeman, who in his homespun blue 
coat was sitting alone by his turf fire ; my companion en- 
quired how times went, and if he had an anker keg of comfort 
for a cold voyage ; he said of late the Revenue Cutters had 
been very active, and stocks low ; but he could accommodate 
him. The price was soon settled, and the gin found a place 
in the ship. And thus it will always be with high duties. 
The Kirk was on the shore of the Harbor, the Minister was 
the Reverend Mr. Falkner, a gentleman remarkable for a fine 
powerful voice and using plain language adapted to the 
education of his flock, he appeared to be much respected. 
Altho' many of his congregation came several miles over a 
rough country, yet his Kirk of a Sunday was filled ; every 
man woman and child came with their blue stockings and 
thick soled shoes neatly folded under their arms. Sitting 
down on the stones near the church they were put on their 
feet, and thus [they] entered the Kirk ; on coming out the 
shoes and stockings were taken off, folded and placed under 
the arms and thus [they] returned home : their behaviour 
was remarkably good, grave yet cheerfuU with respect for each 
other, and kind attention to the women and children. In 
those days there was no Telegraph ; it took three weeks to 
send letters to London and receive an answer for sailing 
orders. We now held our course over the western ocean ; 
and near the islands of America saw several icebergs, and 


Hudson's Straits were so full of ice, as to require the time of 
near a month to pass them ; this being effected the three 
ships separated, one for Albany and Moose Factories, another 
for York Factory, and the third for Churchill Factory at 
which last place we arrived in the beginning of September 


Hudson's Bay, including Jame's Bay, may be said to be 

an inland sea, connected to the Atlantic Ocean by Hudson's 
Straits : it is in the form of a Horse Shoe ; and in Latitude 
extends from 52 degrees to 60 degrees north, and from 
70 degrees to 95 degrees west of Greenwich in the northern 
part ; and covers an area of about 192,770 square statute 
miles. ^ On it's west side it receives Seal, Churchill, the 
Kissiskatchewan,^ Hayes, Severn, Albany, and Moose Rivers ; 
on the east side Ruperts and several other Rivers, the names 
of which are unknown as they come from barren, desolate, 
countries. From Seal River leading south to Churchill River, 
about thirty six miles, the country is of granite rock, along 
the Bay shore of which is a narrow strip of marsh land, appar- 
ently the alluvial of Seal River. The granitic rocks which 
bounds the sea coast from far to the northward have their 
southern termination at Churchill River; in Latitude 58°. 47' 
North Longitude 94°. 3' West, then forms a retiring line from 
the sea shore ; for 150 miles to the Kissiskatchewan River, 
up which the first granite is found at the distance of one 
hundred and thirty five miles, being the borders of the most 
eastern Lakes ; and this distance appears to be wholly alluvial ; 
and to be of much the same width all along the Bay side : 

1 Hudson Bay extends from latitude 51° 10' N. at the south end of 
James Bay to latitude 64° N. and from longitude 77° 30' E. to 94° 30' E., 
and has a total area of about 500,000 square miles. 

* It is interesting to note that Thompson constantly speaks of the 
Nelson river as the Kissiskatchewan river, though I am unable to learn 
that this name was used for it by the Indians. Among the Cree Indians 
who live on its banks, the Nelson river is called Powinigow or Powinini- 
gow, which probably means " the Rapid Strangers' river." 


these alluvials especially of the Kissiskatchewan and Hayes's 
Rivers have high steep banks of earth and gravel intermixed, 
from ten to forty feet ; the gravel and small stones are all 
rounded by the action of water ; the Rivers passing through 
this alluvial have a very rapid current with several Falls. 
Churchill River where it enters the Sea, is an noble stream 
of about one and a half mile in width ; on the south side it 
is bounded by a low point of rock and sand ; on the north 
side by a low neck of sand with rock appearing through it; 
at the extremity of which the Point is about an acre in width, 
on which was erected about the year 1745 a regular, well 
constructed Fort of Granite : ^ having about thirty cannon of 
six to eighteen pound shot. There was no approach to it but 
by the narrow isthmus of sand. The water was too shoal for 
three fourths of a mile to the middle of the River for Ships, 
and this was the only place a ship could come to. (It was at 
this Fort that M" Wales the Astronomer observed the Transit 
of Venus over the Sun in 1769).^ In the war with the United 
States, and with France ; in the year 1782 the celebrated 
Navigator De la Peyrouse^ was sent from France, with one 
Ship of seventy four Guns, and two Frigates to take and 
destroy the Forts of the Hudson's Bay Company. In the 
month of August these vessels anchored in the Bay, about 

^ For a description and plan of Fort Prince of Wales, which is here 
referred to, and an account of its capture by Admiral de la Perouse, see 
Samuel Hearne's Journey, edited by J. B. Tyrrell, The Cham plain Society, 
Toronto, 1911, pp. 6, 7, 21-2. 

2 William Wales was one of the ablest astronomers and mathema- 
ticians of his day. With Joseph Dymond he spent a year at Churchill 
between August 9, 1768, and September 7, 1769, for the purpose of ob- 
serving the transit of Venus over the sun on June 3, 1769. His obser- 
vatory was situated on the top of the wall of the south-east bastion of 
Fort Prince of Wales, within the parapet. 

' Admiral de la Perouse was not only one of the most famous admirals 
of the French Navy, but he was also one of France's greatest geographers. 
After destroying Forts York and Churchill on Hudson Bay in 1 782, he started 
on a voyage round the world, and was last heard from in 1788 from Botany 


four miles north of the Fort ; and the next day sent a boat 
well manned, to sound the River ; at this time the Fort was 
under the command of the well known traveller M"" Samuel 
Hearne ; ^ who had been in the naval service. He allowed the 
french Boat to sound the River to their satisfaction ; without 
firing a single shot at them ; from this conduct Admiral De 
la Peyrouse judged what kind of a Commander of the Fort 
he had to contend with ; accordingly next day, on the narrow 
isthmus of sand and rock of a full mile in length which leads to 
the Fort, he landed four hundred men, who marched direct 
on the Fort with only small arms. The men in the Fort 
begged of M"^ Hearne to allow them to mow down the 
French Troops with the hea^.'}'- guns loaded with grape shot, 
which he absolutely refused .; and as they approached he 
ordered the gates to be opei. jd, and went out to meet them, 
and surrendered at discretion ; all the goods, stores, with 
a large quantity of valuable Furrs fell into their hands. The 
Fort was destroyed and burnt ; but the stone walls of the 
Fort were of such solid masonry [that] the fire scarcely injured 
them. The french Commander declared, that had his sound- 
ing Boat been fired at, he would not have thought of attacking 
such a strong Fort so late in the season, when there was not 
time for a regular siege. M"^ Hearne was received with cold 
pohteness, and looked upon with contempt by the french 
Officers. (Note. M"^ Samuel Hearne was a handsome man 
of six feet in height, of a ruddy complexion and remarkably 
well made, enjoying good health ; as soon as the Hudson's 
Bay Company could do without his services they dismissed 
him for cowardice. Under him I served my first year. It 
was customary of a Sunday for a Sermon to be read to the 
Men, which was done in his room, the only comfortable one 

1 Samuel Hearne sailed from Churchill for England in the ship Sea 
Horse in August, 1787, and died in England in November, 1792, at the 
age of forty-seven. A sketch of his life and character will be found in 
Samuel Hearne's Journey, edited by J. B. Tyrrell, pp. 1-23. 


in the Factory ; one Sunday, after the service, M"" Jefferson ^ 
the reader and myself staid a few minutes on orders, he then 
took Voltaire's Dictionary, and said to us, here is my belief, 
and I have no other. In the Autumn of 1785 he returned 
to England, became a member of the Bucks Club and in two 
years was buried :) The present Factory ^ is about five miles 
above the Fort, in a small Bay formed by a ledge of rocks 
which closes on the river about five hundred yards below the 
Factory, above which for seven miles is an extensive marsh 
to the lower rapids of the River. The Factory is suppHed 
once a year with goods and provisions, by a Ship which 
arrives on the last days of August, or early in September, and 
in about ten days is ready for her homeward voyage ; the 
severity of the cUmate requiring all possible dispatch. The 
cold weather now comes rapidly on, but as there was no 
Thermometer, we could only judge of the intensity of the 
cold by our sensations, and it's action on the land and water. 
On the fifteenth day of November this great and deep River 
was frozen over from side to side, and although the Spring 
tides of New and full Moon rose ten to twelve feet above 
the ordinary level, no impression was made on the ice, it kept 
firm, and it was the middle of June the following year when 
the ice broke up and gave us the pleasant sight of water. 
About the middle of October the Marshes and Swamps are 
frozen over, and the Snow lies on the ground ; for about 
two months the Factory yard, enclosed by stockades of twelve 
feet in height, was kept clear of snow, but in the latter end 
of December a north east snow storm of three days con- 
tinuance drifted the snow to the height of the stockades and 

^ Jefferson was second in command at Churchill during the latter part 
of Samuel Hearne's regime ; and after Hearne's departure he was for a 
year or two in command of the post. 

2 Churchill Factory is still situated in the place where it was when 
Thompson lived in it in 1785. For a description of it and its surroundings, 
see J. B. Tyrrell, Report on the Dubawnt, Kazan, and Ferguson Rivers, 
Ottawa, 1897, pp. 93-8. 


over them, and filled the whole yard to the depth of six to 
ten feet, which could not be cleared, and through which 
avenues had to be cut and cleared of about four feet in width ; 
and thus remained till late in April, when a gradual thaw 
cleared the snow away. From the end of October to the 
end of April every step we walk is in Snow Shoes. The 
Natives wait with ease and activity, and also many of us : 
but some find them a sad incumbrance, their feet become 
sore and their ankles sprained ; with many a tumble in the 
snow from which it is sometimes difficult to rise. In the open 
season in the months of July and August, Salmon ^ from two 
to five pounds weight are plentiful ; two nets each of thirty 
fathoms in length by five feet in height maintain the Factory 
from three to four days in the week. This fish is not 
found south of Churchill River. Peculiar to Churchill is a 
large species of Hare,^ it dwells among the rocks, it's nest is 
better than other Hares, it's skin stronger, the fur long and 
very soft, of a beautiful white ; twenty two were caught, 
their skins sent to London and readily bought by the Barbers. 
The country, soil, and climate in which we live, have always 
a powerful effect upon the state of society, and the movements 
and comforts of every individual, he must conform himself 
to the circumstances under which he is placed, and as such 
we lived and conducted ourselves in this extreme cold climate. 
All our movements more, or less, were for self-preservation : 
All the wood that could be collected for fuel, gave us only 
one fire in the morning, and another in the evening.^ The rest 

^ Probably some form of the wide-ranging Salvelinus alpinus (Linn.) 
[E. A. P.] 

* Lepus arcticus caniis Preble. [E. A. P.] 

3 The house in which Thompson lived at Churchill in the winter of 
1784-85 had doubtless been but recently built, for the old dwelling-house 
at Fort Prince of Wales had been burned in 1782, and the employees of 
the Hudson's Bay Company had only begun the construction of a new 
trading post in the fall of 1783, when they had been allowed to go back 
to Hudson Bay. In the hurry of building, Heame and those with him 


of the day, if bad weather, we had to walk in the guard room 
with our heavy coats of dressed Beaver ; but when the weather 
was tolerable we passed the day in shooting Grouse.^ The 
interior of the walls of the House were covered with rime to 
the thickness of four inches, pieces of which often broke off, 
to prevent which we wetted the whole extent, and made it 
a coat of ice, after which it remained firm, and added to the 
warmth of the House, for the cold is so intense, that every- 
thing in a manner is shivered by it, continually the Rocks 
are split with a sound like the report of a gun. Everywhere 
the rocks are fractured from the well known effects of freezing 
water. This is very well for winter, but in the summer season 
the Rocks are also fractured ; although more than half of 
their surface is covered with Ponds and rills of water, I could 
not believe that water thawing could produce this effect ; but 
in the month of July I was sitting on a rock to shoot Curlews ^ 
as they passed, when a large rock not ten yards from me 
split, I went to it, the fracture was about an inch in width. 
In looking down it, about ten feet from the surface, was a 
bed of soHd ice, the surface of which appeared damp as if 
beginning to thaw ; a few days after another large Rock split 
close to me, by the fracture, at the depth of about twenty 
feet was a bed of ice in the same state : these rocks are not 
isolated, they are part of an immense extent to the westward 
and northward, every where with innumerable fractures ; 
among these rocks are narrow vallies of rolled granite pebbles, 
now twenty to fifty feet above the level of the sea ; which 
was once the beach of the sea : has the land been elevated, or 
the sea retired ; who can tell what has passed in ancient 
times. By the early part of October all the birds of passage 

appear to have neglected to lay in a sufficient supply of firewood for the 
winter. With well-built houses and plenty of fuel men can be as warm 
in winter at Churchill as in any other part of Canada. 

^ Lagopus albus (Gmelin), and L. rupestris (Gmelin), both described 
from Hudson Bay specimens. [E. A. P.] 

2 Numenius bovealis (Forster), and N. hudsonicus Latham. [E. A. P.] 


have left us for milder climes, and winter commences, the pools 
of water are frozen over and ice [is] on the river side. The 
polar Bear ^ now makes his appearance, and prowls about until 
the ice at the sea shore is extended to a considerable distance ; 
when he leaves to prey on the Seal, his favourite food : during 
his stay he is for plunder and every kind of mischief, but not 
willing to fight for it. Only one accident happened, it was 
in November the snow about eighteen inches deep. A she 
Bear prowling about came near to one of the grouse hunters, 
his gun snaped and in turning about to get away he fell, fortu- 
nately on his back, the Bear now came and hooked one of her 
fore paws in one of his snow shoes, and dragged him along 
for her cubs ; sadly frightened, after a short distance he re- 
covered himself, pricked and primed his gun, and sent the 
load of shot Hke a ball into her belly ; she fell with a growl, 
and left him. He lost no time in getting up, and running 
away as fast as snow shoes would permit him. 

The polar, or white. Bear, when taken young is easily 
tamed ; In the early part of July the whaling boat in chase 
of the Beluga ^ came up with a she bear and her two cubs ; 
the bear and one of her cubs were killed ; the other, a male, 
was kept, brought to the factory and tamed. At first he had 
to be carefully protected from the dogs, but he soon increased 
in size and strength to be a fuU match for them, and the 
blows of his fore feet kept them at a distance. This Bruin 
continued to grow, and his many tricks made him a favourite, 
especially with the sailors, who often wrestled with him, and 
his growing strength gave them a cornish hug. In the 
severity of winter when spruce beer could not be kept from 
freezing each mess of four men get a quart of molasses instead 
of beer, of which Bruin was fond as well as grog, and 
every Saturday used to accompany the men to the steward's 
shed when the rations were served to them, the steward 

' Thalarctos maritimus (Phipps). [E. A. P.] 
> Delphinapterus catodon (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 


always gave him some on one of his fore paws, which he Hcked 
into his mouth. On one of these days the steward and 
Bruin had quarreled and as punishment he got no molasses : 
he sat very quietly while the steward was putting all to 
rights, but seeing him ready to shut the door, made a dash 
at the hogshead of molasses, and thrusting his head and neck 
to the shoulders, into it, to the utter dismay of the steward, 
he carried off a large gallon on his shaggy hair ; he walked 
to the middle of the yard, sat down, and then first with one 
paw, then the other, brought the molasses into his mouth 
until he had cleaned all that part of his coat, all the time 
deliciously smacking his lips. Whatever quarrels the steward 
and the bear had afterwards, the latter always got his ration 
of molasses. On Saturday the sailors had an allowance of 
rum, and frequently bought some for the week, and on that 
night Bruin was sure to find his way into the guard room ; 
one night having tasted some grog, he came to a sailor with 
whom he was accustomed to wrestle, and who was drinking 
too freely, and was treated by him so liberally that he got 
drunk, knocked the sailor down and took possession of his 
bed ; at fisty cuffs he knew the bear would beat him and 
being determined to have his bed he shot the bear. This is 
the fate of almost every Bear that is tamed when grown to 
their strength. This animal aifects a northern cHmate and 
is found only on the sea side, and the mouths of large rivers 
but not beyond the ascent of the tide, and keeping the line 
of the sea coasts appear more numerous than they really are. 
Some of the males grow to a large size, I have measured a skin 
when stretched to a frame to dry, ten and a half feet in 
length. The fore paw of one of them kept at Churchill weighed 
in the scales thirty two pounds, a decent paw to shake hands 
with, the claws are [sharp ?] but only about three inches in 
length, the flesh is so fat and oily that a considerable quantity 
is collected for the lamps, and other purposes. The skin is 
loose and when taken off appears capable of covering a much 


larger animal ; he swims with ease and swiftness, and requires 
a good boat with four men to come up with him. Although 
the white bear is found along the coasts inhabited by the 
Esquimaux yet very few of the skins of this animal are traded 
from, or seen with, them. For the white bear though seldom 
he attacks a man, yet when attacked will fight hard for his Hfe, 
and as he is, what the Indians call Seepnak (strong of life) he 
is very rarely killed by a single ball ; much less with an arrow 
that cannot break a bone ; hence they must be unwilling to 
attack him. 

The Nahathaway Indians are all armed with guns, and are 
good shots, but they only attack this species of Bear when 
they are two together, and one after the other keep a steady 
fire on him, but a baU in the brain or heart is directly fatal. 

The Esquimaux are a people with whom we are very 
little acquainted, although in a manner surrounding us, they 
live wholly on the sea coast, which they possess from the 
gulph of the S* Lawrence, round the shores of Labrador to 
Hudsons Straits, these Straits and adjacent Islands, to Hudson's 
Bay, part of it's east shores ; but on the west side of this 
Bay, only north of Churchill River, thence northward and 
westward to the Coppermine River ; thence to the M'^Kenzie 
and westward to Icy Cape, the east side of Behring's Strait. 
Along this immense line of sea coast they appear to have 
restricted themselves to the sea shores,^ their Canoes give them 
free access to ascend the Rivers, yet they never do, every part 
they frequent is wholly destitute of growing Trees, their 
whole dependence for fuel and other purposes is on drift 
wood, of which, fortunately there is plenty. The whole is a 

^ In a general way, this statement that the Eskimo Hve exclusively 
on the sea coast is correct. Nevertheless, while exploring the Kazan 
river, which flows into Chesterfield Inlet, in 1894, I encountered a tribe 
of Eskimo who live on its banks and rarely visit the salt water. They 
subsist chiefly on the meat of the caribou, which they kill with their spears 
in great numbers, and from the skins of the caribou they make their 
clothing and the coverings for their kayaks or small canoes. 


dreary, monotonous coast of Rock and Moss without Hills 
or Mountains to the M'^Kenzie River, thence westward the 
Mountains are near the shore. 

In the latter end of February and the months of 
March and April, from the mouth of the River seaward for 
several miles the Seals are numerous, and have many holes in 
the ice through which they come up : how these holes are 
made in the apparent solid ice, I never could divine ; to 
look into them, they appear like so many wells of a round 
form, with sides of smooth solid ice and their size seldom 
large enough to admit two seals to pass together. 

The Seals ^ do not come up on the ice before nine or ten 
in the morning as the weather may be, and go down between 
two and three in the afternoon ; they are always on the 
watch, scarce a minute passes without some one lifting his 
head, to see if any danger is near from the Bear or Man, 
apparently their only enemies. Three of us several times 
made an attempt to kill one, or more ; but to no purpose, 
however wounded they had always life enough to faU into 
the ice hole and we lost them ; and I have not heard of any 
Seal being killed on the spot by a Ball. The Esquimaux 
who live to the northward of us kill these animals for food 
and clothing in a quiet and sure manner : the Hunter is 
armed with a Lance headed with Bone or Iron, the latter 
always preferred : the handle of which, sometimes is the 
length of twenty yards (measured) made of pieces of drift 
larch wood, neatly fitted to each other, bound together with 
sinew, the handle is shortened, or lengthened, as occasion 
may require. The Esquimaux Hunter in the evening, when 
the Seals are gone to the sea, examines their holes, the places 
where they lie, and having selected the hole, best adapted to 

1 Three species of seal are common on the coast of Hudson Bay near 
Fort Churchill : the Rough or Ringed Seal, Phoca hispida Schreber ; 
the Common or Harbour Seal, Phoca vitulina Linn. ; and the Bearded 
Seal, Erignathus barbatus (Erxleben). [E. A. P.] 



his purpose, early in the morning before the seals come up, 

goes to the ice hole he has selected, on the south side of 

which he places his Lance, the handle directed northward, 

the point of the Lance close to the hole, for the seals He on 

the north side of the ice hole, and directing his Lance to the 

spot [where] the Seals have been lying, having firmly laid the 

helve of his lance, he retires to the end of it, and there hides 

himself behind some broken ice, which if he does not find 

to his purpose, he brings pieces of ice to make the shelter he 

requires. Lying flat on his beUy he awaits with patience the 

coming up of the Seals ; the first Seal takes his place at the 

north edge of the hole, this is also the direction in which the 

Lance is laid ; the other seals, two, or three more, are close 

on each side, or behind ; if the Seal is not in the direct line 

of the Lance, which is sometimes the case, he gently twists 

the handle of the Lance until it is directly opposite to the 

heart of the Seal ; still he waits with patience until the Seal 

appears asleep ; when with all his skill and strength he drives 

the Lance across the hole (near three feet) into the body of 

the Seal, which, finding itself wounded, and trying to throw 

itself into the ice hole, which the handle of the lance prevents, 

only aids the wound ; the hunter keeps the handle firm, and 

goes on hands and knees to near the hole, where he quietly 

waits the death of the seal ; he then drags the seal from the 

hole, takes out his lance and carefully washes the blood from 

it. When the hunter shows himself all the seals for some 

distance around dive into the ice holes, and do not come up 

for several minutes ; this gives time to the Esquimaux to 

place his lance at another hole, and await the seals return, 

and thus he sometimes kills two of them in one day but this 

is not often, as the weather is frequently stormy and cloudy. 

The Esquimaux are of a square, plump make, few of them 

exceed five feet eight inches in height, the general stature is 

below this size, and the women are in proportion to the men, 

their features though broad are not unpleasing, with a ten- 


dency to ruddy, they appear cheerful and contented, they are 
supple active and strong ; from the land, in the open season, 
they have berries, and a few rein-deer, but it is to the sea they 
look for their subsistence : the sea birds, the seal, morse, 
beluga, and the whale ; living on these oily foods, they are 
supposed not to be clean, but the fact is, they are as cleanly 
as people living as they do, and without soap can be expected 
[to be], all their cooking utensils are in good order. In summer 
part of them dwell in tents made of the dressed skins of the 
reindeer, these are pitched on the gravel banks, and kept 
very neat, they make no fire in them to prevent [them] 
being soiled with smoke, which is made near the tent. The 
salmon and meat of the reindeer they cure by smoke of drift 
wood of which they have plenty. They are very industrious 
and ingenious, being for eight months of the year exposed 
to the glare of the snow, their eyes become weak ; at the age 
of forty years almost every man has an impaired sight. The 
eyesight of the women is less injured at this age. They 
make neat goggles of wood with a narrow slit, which are 
placed on the eyes, to lessen the Hght. They all use Darts, 
Lances, Bows and Arrows, as weapons of defence, and for 
hunting ; their Darts and Lances are made of drift Larch 
wood, headed with bone of the leg of the Rein Deer,^ or a 
piece of iron, the latter preferred, and the length of the Dart 
is proportioned to it's intended use — for Birds, the Seal, the 
Beluga,^ Whale ^ or the Morse ; * to the Dart or Lance for the 
three latter, a large bladder made of sealskins, and blown full 
of air is attached by a strong line of neatly twisted sinew. 
This not only shews the place of the wounded animal but soon 
tires him, [so] that he becomes an easy prey, though some- 
times with risque to the Hunter and Canoe. The Morse is 

^ Rangifer arcticus (Richardson). [E. A. P.] 
" Delphinapterus catodon (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 

* Balcena mysticetus (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 

* The Walrus, Odohcsnus rosmarus (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 


the animal most dreaded, and he is allowed to worry himself 
to death before they approach him. Whale Bone is part of 
their trade, but whether they procure it by attacking the 
Whale as they do the Morse or it is the spoils of those thrown 
ashore, is somewhat uncertain. They are dextrous in throw- 
ing the dart, although their Canoes allow only the motion of 
the upper part of their bodies, and seldom miss a sea bird at 
thirty yards distance. Their Bows and Arrows are employed 
on the Rein Deer, Wolf and Fox, they draw the Arrow well 
and sure, whatever they make displays a neatness and ingenuity 
that would do honor to a first rate european workman if he 
had no other tools than those poor people have. All along 
the sea coast where the Esquimaux are found, there are no 
standing woods of any kind, the whole country is rock and 
moss, the drift wood is what they wholly depend on for 
every purpose for which wood is required, and fortunately it 
is plentiful ; brought down by the rivers from the interior 
countries, and thrown ashore by the waves and tides of the 
sea ; their country everywhere exhibits Rocks, Ponds, and 
Moss, a hundred miles has not ground for a garden, even if 
the cHmate allowed it ; their cloathing is much the same 
everywhere, made of Rein Deer leather and Seal skins, both 
men and women wear boots, which come to the knee, the 
foot is made of Morse skin, the upper part of seal skin with 
the hair off, the whole so neatly sewed together as to be 
perfectly water tight : these boots are much sought after by 
the people of the Factories, to walk with in the marshes, 
where our boots cannot stand the water. They are worth six 
shillings p"^ pair, (at Quebec three dollars) and with care last 
two years, of open seasons. Their kettles are made of black, 
or dark grey marble, of various sizes, some will hold four to 
six gallons, they are of an oblong form, shallow in proportion 
to their size, this shape serves for fish as well as flesh, they do 
not put them on the fire, the victuals in them is cooked by 
means of hot stones to make the water boil, to keep it boiling 


by the same means requires very little trouble ; the kettles 
are kept clean and in good order, poHshed both in the inside 
and outside ; they set a high value on them but prefer a 
brass kettle, as lighter and more useful. Their canoes are 
made of sealskins sewed together, and held to a proper shape 
by gunwales, and ribs made of drift Larch, and sometimes 
whalebones added ; they are very sharp at both ends and no 
wider in the middle than to admit a man ; their length from 
twelve to sixteen feet, they are decked with seal skins so as to 
prevent any water getting into the canoe, the place to admit 
the man is strengthened by a broad hoop of wood, to the upper 
part of which is sewed a sealskin made to draw around the 
man like a purse, this the Esquimaux tightens round his waist 
so that only the upper part of the body is exposed to the 
waves and weather ; they urge along their canoes with great 
swiftness, by a paddle having a blade at both ends ; the handle 
is in the middle. Early habit has rendered him expert in 
balancing himself on the waves of the sea in these sharp canoes 
called kaijack. I never saw a european who could balance 
himself in these canoes for three minutes. Their weapons for 
killing sea birds, seals &c. are placed on the deck of the canoe, 
quite at hand, secured by small cords of sinew. For the 
removal of their families they have canoes of about thirty 
feet in length by six feet in breadth called oomiaks, made of 
seal skin, the gunwales and ribs of larch wood, and whale- 
bone ; these are paddled by the women and steered by an 
old man. Their Bows are made of the Larch found on the 
beach, they are from 3! to five feet in length, made of three 
pieces of wood of equal lengths, and morticed into each other, 
at the back of each joint, or mortice, is a piece of Morse tooth 
neatly made to fit the Bow, of nine inches long, a quarter of 
an inch thick, on each side thinned to an edge : the back of 
the Bow is a groove of half an inch in depth, leaving the sides 
for an inch thick along the groove ; this is filled with twisted, 
or plaited sinew, running alternately from end to end of the 


Bow, each layer secured by cross sinews. In undoing a large 
Bow, about four hundred fathoms of this sinew line was 
measured : their arrows are twenty eight to thirty inches 
long headed with bone, or iron ; but being made of Larch, 
for want of better wood, which occasions them to be too large 
in proportion to their weight, and lessens their velocity ; yet 
such is the strength of their Bows, they pierce a Rein Deer 
at one hundred and twenty yards : almost all their weapons 
are barbed. When the winter moderates sufficiently to allow 
them to travel, they use a large sled made of two runners of 
Larch, each runner is six to seven feet long, six to eight 
inches deep, and four inches wide, each turning up at the 
fore part, the runners are fastened together by bars of wood 
let into the upper side of each runner, on these they lay, 
and with cords, secure all their baggage, utensils, and pro- 
visions ; the men to the number of six, or eight, harness them- 
selves to the sled and march from campment to campment in 
quest of animals for food and clothing : the women carry 
their children, and light things, and sometimes assist the men. 
As soon as mild weather comes on, [so] that they can dwell 
in tents, they willingly leave their earthy, or snow huts, and 
live in tents made of the dressed leather of the Rein Deer, 
which are pitched on clean gravel : they rarely allow a fire 
to be made in them as it would soil the leather, but for all 
purposes make a fire without. When they lie down at night, 
they have their particular blankets made of Rein Deer or 
Seal skins, beside which, a large coverlet made of the same 
material extends all round each half of the tent and covers 
everyone, generally there are two families to each tent. 

In their conduct to each other they are sociable, friendly, 
and of a cheerful temper. But we are not sufficiently 
acquainted with their language to say much more ; in their 
traffic with us they are honest and friendly. They are not of 
the race of the north american Indians, but of european 
descent. Nothing can oblige an Indian to work at anything 


but stern necessity ; whereas the Esquimaux is naturally 
industrious, very ingenious, fond of the comforts of life so far 
as they can attain them, always cheerful, and even gay ; it 
is true that in the morning, when he is about to embark in 
his shell of a Canoe, to face the waves of the sea, and the 
powerful animals he has to contend with, for food and cloth- 
ing for himself and family, he is for many minutes very 
serious, because he is a man of reflection, knows the dangers 
to which he is exposed, but steps into his canoe, and bravely 
goes through the toil and dangers of the day. 

The steady enemy of the Seal is the Polar Bear. How 
this awkward animal catches the watchful Seal, I could not 
imagine. The Esquimaux say, he prowls about examining the 
ice holes of the Seals and finding one close to high broken ice 
there hides himself, and when the Seals are basking in the 
Sun and half asleep, he springs upon them, seizes one, which 
he hugs to death, and as fast as possible, with his teeth cuts 
the back sinews of the neck, the Seal is then powerless and 
Bruin feasts on him at his leisure. Few Porpoises ^ are seen, 
but the Beluga, a small species of white Whale, are very 
numerous from the latter end of May to the beginning of 
September, their average length is about fifteen feet, and 
[they] are covered with fat from three to five inches in thick- 
ness, which yields an oil superior to that of the black whale. 
This Summer the Company had a Boat and six Men employed 
for the taking of the Beluga, the Boat was of light construc- 
tion and painted white, which is the color of this fish, and 
as experience has proved the color best adapted to them as 
they often, in a manner, touch the Boat ; while they avoid 
Boats of any other color, those taken were all struck with the 
Harpoon, and often held the Boat in play from three to five 
miles before they were killed by the Lance, towing the Boat 

* Phoccsna phocesna (Linn.) is common in Baffin's Bay and about 
the mouth of Hudson Strait, but apparently has not been detected on 
the west shore of Hudson Bay. [E. A. P.] 


at the rate of five miles an hour ; when struck they dive to 
the bottom with such force as sometimes to strike the harpoon 
out of them, and thus many escape ; in some of those killed 
I have seen the harpoon much bent. Their young are of a 
blueish color, and in the month of July weigh about one 
hundred and twenty pounds, they are struck with a strong 
boat hook. The Beluga in chase of the Salmon sometimes 
runs himself ashore, especially up large Brooks and Creeks. 
If it is ebb tide he stands every chance of remaining and be- 
coming the prey of Gulls and the Polar Bear. The produce 
of this summers fishing, was three tuns of oil, which could 
not pay the expenses. There is scarce a doubt but strong 
Nets well anchored would take very many and be profitable 
to the Company.^ 

After passing a long gloomy, and most severe winter, it 
will naturally be thought with what delight we enjoy the 
Spring, and Summer ; of the former we know nothing but 
the melting of the snow and the ice becoming dangerous ; 
Summer such as it is, comes at once, and with it myriads of 
tormenting Musketoes ; the air is thick with them, there is 
no cessation day nor night of suffering from them. Smoke 
is no relief, they can stand more smoke than we can, and 
smoke cannot be carried about with us. The narrow windows 
were so crowded with them, they trod each other to death in 
such numbers, we had to sweep them out twice a day ; a 
chance cold northeast gale of wind was a grateful relief, and 
[we] were thankful for the cold weather that put an end to our 
sufferings. The Musketoe Bill, when viewed through a good 
microscope, is of a curious formation, composed of two dis- 
tinct pieces ; the upper is three sided, of a black color, and 
sharp-pointed, under which is a round white tube, like clear 

^ For many years the White Whale or Beluga has been taken in some 
numbers by means of a net stretched across the mouth of some natural 
basin, which, being raised after entrance of a school, imprisons the animals 
until the falling tide leaves them helpless. [E. A. P.] 


glass, the mouth inverted inwards ; with the upper part the 
skin is perforated, it is then drawn back, and the clear tube 
applied to the wound, and the blood sucked through it into 
the body, till it is full ; thus their bite are two distinct opera- 
tions, but so quickly done as to feel as only one ; different 
Persons feel them in a different manner ; some are swelled, 
even bloated, with intolerable itching ; others feel only the 
smart of the minute wounds ; Oil is the only remedy and 
that frequently applied ; the Natives rub themselves with 
Sturgeon Oil, which is found to be far more effective than 
any other oil. All animals suffer from them, almost to mad- 
ness, even the well feathered Birds suffer about the eyes and 
neck. The cold nights of September are the first, and most 
steady relief. A question has often been asked to which no 
satisfactory answer has ever been given ; where, and how, do 
they pass the winter, for on their first appearance they are 
all full grown, and the young brood does not come forward 
until July. The opinion of the Natives, as well as many of 
ourselves, is, that they pass the winter at the bottom of ponds 
of water, for when these ponds are free of ice, they appear 
covered with gnats in a weak state ; and two, or three days 
after the Musketoes are on us in full force. This theory may 
do very well for the low countries, where except the bare 
rock, the whole surface may be said to be wet, and more, or 
less, covered with water, but will not do for the extensive 
high and dry Plains, where, when the warm season comes on, 
they start up in myriads a veritable full grown plague. We 
must conclude that wherever they find themselves when the 
frost sets in, there they shelter themselves from the winter, 
be the country wet or dry ; and this theory appears probable, 
for all those countries where they were in myriads, and which 
are now under cultivation by the plough, are in a manner 
clear of them, and also the Cities and Towns of Canada. 
But in America there always has been, and will be Woods, 
Swamps, and rough ground, not fit for the plough, but 


admirably adapted to produce Musketoes, and the Cows 
turned out to graze, when they return to be milked bring 
with them more than enough to plague the farmer. In 
September the Sand Fly, and Midgeuks, are numerous, the 
latter insinuates itself all over the body ; the skin becomes 
heated with itching ; these cease at sun set, but remain until 
the season becomes cold. October puts an end to all these 
plagues. It is a curious fact [that] the farther to the north- 
ward, the more, and more, numerous are all those flies, but 
their time is short. 

While these insects are so numerous they are a terrour to 
every creature on dry lands if swamps may be so called, the 
dogs howl, roll themselves on the ground, or hide themselves 
in the water ; the Fox seems always in a fighting humour ; 
he barks, snaps on all sides, and however hungry and ready to 
go a birdsnesting, of which he is fond, is fairly driven to seek 
shelter in his hole. A sailor finding swearing of no use, tried 
what Tar could do, and covered his face with it, but the 
musketoes stuck to it in such numbers as to blind him, and 
the tickling of their wings were worse than their bites ; in 
fact Oil is the only remedy. I was fortunate in passing my 
time in the company of three gentlemen the officers of the 
factory, M' Jefferson the deputy governor, M' Prince the 
captain of the Sloop, that annually traded with the Esquimaux 
to the northward, and M" Hodges the Surgeon ; ^ they had 
books which they freely lent to me, among them were several 
on history and on animated nature, these were what I paid 
most attention to as the most instructive. Writing paper 
there was none but what was in the hands of the Governor, 
and a few sheets among the officers. On my complaining 
that I should lose my writing for want of practice, M' Hearne 

^ The Hudson's Bay Company was accustomed to keep a surgeon or 
doctor at each of its most important trading posts on Hudson Bay. As 
a rule these surgeons were young men who remained only a few years in 
the service. 


employed me a few days on his manuscript entitled " A 
journey to the North," ^ and at another time I copied an 

It had been the custom for many years, when the governors 
of the factory required a clerk, to send to the school in which 
I was educated to procure a Scholar who had a mathematical 
education to send out as Clerk, and, to save expenses, he 
was bound apprentice to them for seven years. To learn 
what ; for all I had seen in their service neither writing nor 
reading was required, and my only business was to amuse 
myself, in winter growling at the cold ; and in the open season 
shooting Gulls, Ducks, Plover and Curlews, and quareUing 
with Musketoes and Sand flies. 

The Hudsons Bay Company annually send out three Ships 
to their Factories, which generally arrive at their respective 
ports in the latter end of August or the early part of September, 
and this year (1785) the Ship arrived as usual. When the 
Captain landed, I was surprised to see with him iVF John 
Charles,^ a school fellow and of the same age as myself, whom 

^ This book was published ten years later, and three years after 
Hearne's death, under the editorship of Dr. John Douglas, Bishop of 
Salisbury, with the title A Journey from Prince of Wales's Fort in Hudson's 
Bay to the Northern Ocean, and was republished, with introduction and notes, 
by the Champlain Society in igii. It describes Hearne's three journeys 
on foot from Fort Prince of Wales, at the mouth of the Churchill river, 
to the Coppermine river, in the years between 1769 and 1772. 

2 Thompson here refers to George Charles, who came to Churchill in 
1785. George Charles was in training for the Company at the Grey Coat 
School at the time of Thompson's departure from it. In the minutes of 
the Grey Coat School under date of June 29, 1785, " The Master reports 
that there is but one boy in the School, viz. George Charles, who is under 
instruction for the service of the Hudson's Bay Company by order of the 
Treasurer at the desire and request of his uncle, Mr. John Allen, Coach- 
maker, of Petty France, Westminster." On May 20, 1785, young Charles, 
who was then about fifteen years of age, was bound to the Hudson's Bay 
Company, and the Grey Coat School paid the Company five pounds, and 
four pounds more " in lieu of instruments." George Charles remained at 
Churchill, or at the trading posts up the Churchill river, for a number of 
years, at least until the winter of 1805, but it does not appear that he ever 


I had left to be bound out to a trade. I enquired of him 
what had made him change his mind, he informed me that 
shortly after my departure, from what he could learn some 
maps drawn by the fur traders of Canada had been seen by M" 
Dalrymple,^ which showed the rivers and lakes for many 
hundred miles to the westward of Hudsons Bay. That he 
appHed to the Company to send out a gentleman well 
qualified to survey the interior country, all which they 
promised to do, and have [a] gentleman fit for that purpose 

made any surveys of the interior country. The work of making a survey 
as far west as Lake Athabaska was afterwards assigned to PhiUp Tumor. 
John Charles, with whose name Thompson appears to have confused 
George Charles, was a younger man who was born in the Parish of St. 
Margaret, Westminster, about the year 1785, and who entered the service 
of the Hudson's Bay Company about 1799. In 181 5-16 he was at 
Nelson House on Churchill river, and in 1820 he was in charge of New 
Churchill district, with headquarters at Indian lake. In 1821, at the 
union of the Hudson's Bay and North-West Companies, he was a chief 
factor with residence at the same place. Later he was at Isle a la Crosse 
in charge of the English river district, and in 1833, when Sir George Back 
conducted an exploring expedition down the Great Fish river to the 
Arctic ocean, he was in charge of the Athabaska district. He retired 
from active service in the Company in 1842. R. M. Ballantyne, in his 
Hudson's Bay, Edinburgh, 1848, gives an interesting sketch of his appear- 
ance and character under the name of Carles. 

1 Alexander Dalrymple was Hydrographer to the Admiralty from 1795, 
when the post was created, until a few weeks before his death in 1808. 
He was born in Scotland on July 24, 1737, and when fifteen years of age 
went to India in the service of the East India Company. For twenty- 
eight years he remained in the East ; then he returned to England, and 
during the next ten years he published a number of books and papers, 
chiefly relating to geography and travel. Towards the end of this time he 
was appointed Hydrographer to the East India Company. He criti- 
cized Hearne's geographical work on his journey to the Coppennine 
river ; and he seems to have been largely instrumental in having Philip 
Turner sent out to determine the extent and correct position of Lake 
Athabaska. It is difficult, however, to understand Thompson's reference 
to him in the text. It is hardly likely that any map drawn by the Cana- 
dian fur-traders had been seen by him before 1785. It is generally 
assumed that the map made by Peter Pond, in or about the year 1785, 
which showed Lake Athabaska much too far west and too near the Pacific 
ocean, is the one which incited Dalrymple to urge fuller surveys of that 
lake and its vicinity. 


to go out with their ships next year ; they accordingly sent 
to the School to have one ready. As he was the only one 
of age, he was placed in the mathematical School, run quickly 
over his studies, for which he had no wish to learn, for three 
days, for a few minutes each day, taught to handle Hadley's 
quadrant, and bring down the Sun to a chalk mark on the 
wall [and] his education was complete, and pronounced fit for 
the duties he had to perform ; he was very much disappointed 
at all he saw, but he could not return. Hudson's Bay, is 
certainly a country that Sinbad the Sailor never saw, as he 
makes no mention of Musketoes. 



Orders to set out for Tork Factory — Packet Indians — Leave 
Churchill — West shore of HudsorCs Bay — Meet several 
Polar Bears — Indian superstitions regarding Polar Bears — 
Cross Nelson River and arrive at Tork Factory — Great 
Marsh — Shooting wild Geese — Southward migration of Geese 
— Orders of the Manito — Cranes and Bitterns — Life at 
Tork Factory — Shif arrives and leaves — Winter sets in — 
Hunting parties — Depart for Factory — Unwelcome visitor — 
His death — Wrath of Indian Woman — Polar Bear in a 
trap — Speckled Frout — Hares — White grouse or ptarmigan 
— Feeding ground — Netting grouse — Feathers of grouse — 
Pine Grouse — Pheasants — Snow Bunting — Fomtit — Cross 
beak — Whiskeyjack — Raven — White Fox — Hawks and 
Foxes — Snow blindness. 

EARLY in September the annual Ship arrived, and 
orders were sent for me to proceed directly to York 
Factory, a distance of one hundred and fifty miles 
to the southward.^ The Hudson's Bay Company had estab- 
lished a very useful line of communication between their 
several Factories by means of what were called, Packet Indians, 
these were each of two Indian men, who left each Factory 
with letters to arrive at the next Factory about the expected 
time of the arrival of the Ship at such Factory, and thus the 
safe arrival of these annual Ships, and the state of the Factories 

1 Thompson was at this time fifteen years of age. 


became known to each other, and assistance was given where 
required. The Boat from Churchill Factory crossed the 
River with the two Packet Indians and myself to Cape 
Churchill, and landed us without any Provisions, and only 
one blanket to cover me at night ; for we had to carry every- 
thing : it was a very fine day ; but unfortunately a gallon 
of very strong Grog was given to these Indians, who as usual, 
as soon as they landed, began drinking, and were soon drunk 
and the day lost ; we slept on the ground each in his single 
blanket, the dew was heavy : Early in the morning we set off 
and continued our march to sunset, without breakfast or 
dinner ; the Indians now shot one Goose ^ and three stock 
Ducks. ^ We came to something like a dry spot, and stopped for 
the night with plenty of drift wood for fuel ; the three Ducks 
were soon picked, stuck on a stick to roast at the fire ; mean- 
time the Goose was picked, and put to roast. Each of us had 
a Duck, and the Goose among us three. Our march all day 
had been on the marshy beach of the Bay, which made it 
fatigueing ; and directly after supper, each wrapped himself 
in his blanket and slept soundly on the ground : the banks 
of the Brooks were the only kind of dry ground. The inci- 
dents of every day were so much the same that I shall make 
one story of the whole : on the evening of the sixth day we 
arrived at Kisiskatchewan River, a bold, deep, stream of 
two miles in width ; we put up on the bank of a Brook, where 
my companions had laid up a Canoe, but the wind blowing 
fresh we could not proceed. Our line of march had con- 
stantly been along the Bay side, at high water mark, always 
wet and muddy, tiresome walking and very duU ; on the 
left hand was the sea, which when the tide was in appeared 
deep, but the Ebb retired to such a distance, that the Sea 
was not visible and showed an immense surface of Mud with 
innumerable boulders of rock, from one to five or seven tons 

^ Probably Branta canadensis hutchinsi (Rich.). [E. A. P.] 
2 Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos Linn. [E. A. P.] 


weight, the greatest part were lodged at about half tide, 
where the greatest part of the drift ice remains on the shore ; 
as Seal River, north of Churchill River, is the most southern 
place where the shore is of Rock, the whole of these boulders 
must have come with the ice from the northward of that 
River, for south of it, and of Churchill River all is alluvial ; 
this evidently shows a strong set of the north sea into Hudson's 
Bay on it's west side, returning by the east side into Hudson's 
Straits ; for these boulders are found on the west side shores 
to the most southern part of the Bay. On our right hand 
was an immense extent of alluvial in marsh, morass, and 
numerous ponds of water, which furnished water to many 
small Brooks ; the woods, such as they are, were out of sight. 
Every day we passed from twelve to fifteen Polar Bears, 
lying on the marsh, a short distance from the shore, they were 
from three to five together, their heads close to each other, 
and their bodies lying as radii from a centre. I enquired of 
the Indians if the Polar Bears always lay in that form, they 
said, it was the common manner in which they lie. As we 
passed them, one, or two would lift up their heads and look 
at us, but never rose to molest us. The indian rule is to 
wallc past them with a steady step without seeming to notice 
them. On the sixth day we had a deep Brook to cross, and 
on the opposite side of the ford was a large Polar Bear feasting 
on a Beluga, we boldly took the ford thinking the bear would 
go away, but when [we were] about half way across, he lifted 
his head, placed his fore paws on the Beluga, and uttering a 
loud growl, showed to us such a sett of teeth as made us 
turn up the stream, and for fifty yards wade up to our middle 
before we could cross ; during this time the Bear eyed us, 
growling like a Mastiff Dog. During the time we were 
waiting [for] the wind to calm, I had an opportunity of seeing 
the Indian superstition on the Polar Bear ; on one of these 
days we noticed a Polar Bear prowling about in the ebb tide, 
the Indians set off to kill it as the skin could be taken to the 


Factory in the Canoe ; when the Bear was shot, before they 
could skin him and cut off his head, the tide was coming in, 
which put them in danger, they left the skin to float ashore, 
and seizing the head, each man having hold of an ear, with 
their utmost speed in the mud brought the head to land, 
the tide was up to their knees when they reached the shore ; 
on the first grass they laid down the head, with the nose to 
the sea, which they made red with ochre ; then made a 
speech to the Manito of the Bears, that he would be kind to 
them as they had performed all his orders, had brought the 
head of the Bear ashore, and placed it with it's nose to the 
sea, begging him to make the skin float ashore, which, at the 
Factory would sell for three pints of Brandy ; the Manito 
had no intention that they should get drunk, the skin did 
not float ashore and was lost. In the afternoon of the third 
day the wind calmed, the Indians told me at Noon that we 
had staid there too long, that they would now sing and calm 
the wind, for their song had great power ; they sung for about 
half an hour ; and then said to me, you see the wind is 
calming, such is the power of our song. I was hurt at their 
pretensions and replied ; you see the Ducks, the Plover and 
other Birds, follow the ebb tide, they know the wind is calming 
without your song : if you possess such power why did you 
not sing on the first day of our being here. They gave no 
answer, it is a sad weakness of the human character, and [one] 
which is constantly found, more, or less, in the lower orders 
of thinly populated countries ; they all possess, if we may 
credit them, some superhuman power. The Ebb tide had 
now retired about one and a half mile from us. Near sunset, 
each of us cut a bundle of small willows, and with the Canoe 
and paddles, carried them about a mile, when we laid the 
Canoe down, spread the wiUows on the mud, and laid down 
to await the return of the tide ; as soon as it reached us, we 
got into the canoe, and proceeded up the Kisiskatchewan 
River for several miles, then crossed to the south shore and 


landed at a path ^ of four miles in length through woods of 
small pines, on low, wet, marsh ground to York Factory, 
thank good Providence.^ 

I now return to the great marsh along which we travelled. 
The aquatic fowl in the seasons of spring and autumn are 
very numerous. They seem to confine themselves to a belt 
of these great marshes, of about two miles in width from the 
seashore, and this belt is mostly covered with small ponds ; 
and the intervals have much short tender grass, which serves 
for food, the interior of the marsh has too much moss. Of 
these fowls the wild geese are the most numerous and the 
most valuable, and of these the grey goose,^ of which there 
are four species, and the brent goose,* a lesser species of the 
gray goose, it's feathers are darker and it's cry different. Of 
the Snow Geese * there are three varieties, the least of which 
is of a blueish color,* they are all somewhat less than the gray 
geese, but of richer meat. It may be remarked that of wild 
fowl, the darker the feather, the lighter the color of the 
meat ; and the whiter the feather, the darker the meat, as 
the Snow Goose and the Swan &c. The shooting of the wild 
Geese, (or as it is called, the hunt) is of great importance to 
the Factories not only for present fresh meat, but also 
[because it] forms a supply of Provisions for a great part of 
the winter ; the gray geese are the first to arrive in the early 

^ This path or track is still used in crossing from the Nelson to the 
Hayes river at York Factory, but the land is so wet and boggy that it is 
always avoided when it is possible to go round the point of marsh be- 
tween the two rivers in canoes. 

* Thompson arrived at York Factory about September 15, and on 
that date the following entry was made in the books of the Company : 
" Gave as a gratuity to the two Indians, for the care they have taken of 
David Thompson, 

" brandy 3 gals. 16 MB. 

"tobacco 4 lbs. 4MB." 

^ Branta canadensis (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 

* Probably Branta c. hutchinsi (Richardson). [E. A. P.] 
^ Chen h. nivalis (Forster). [E. A. P.] 

* Probably Blue Goose, Chen ccerulescens (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 


part of May ; the Snow geese arrive about ten days after. 
About ten of the best shots of the men of the Factory, with 
several Indians, are now sent to the marshes to shoot them. 
For this purpose each man has always two guns, each makes 
what is called a Stand, this is composed of drift wood and 
pine branches, about three feet high, six feet in diameter, 
and half round in form, to shelter himself from the weather 
and the view of the geese ; each Stand is about 120 yards 
from the other, or more, and forms a hne on the usual passage 
of the geese, [which is] always near the sea shore ; two, or 
three, parties are formed, as circumstances may direct ; each 
hunter has about ten mock geese, which are sticks made and 
painted to resemble the head and neck of the gray goose, 
to which is added a piece of canvas for a body. They are 
placed about twenty yards from the Stands, with their beaks 
to windward : the position in which the geese feed. When 
the geese first arrive, they readily answer to the call of the 
Hunter. The Indians imitate them so well that they would 
alight among the mock geese, if the shots of the hunter did 
not prevent them. The geese are all shot on the wing ; they 
are too shy, and the marsh too level, to be approached. Some 
good shots, in the spring hunt, kill from 70 to 90 geese, but 
the general average is from 40 to 50 geese p*^ man, as the 
season may be. The Snow Goose is very unsteady on the 
wing, now high, now low, they are hard to hit, they seldom 
answer to our call, but the Indians imitate them well ; for 
the spring, they answer the call, but do not notice it in 
autumn ; for the table, the Snow Goose is the richest bird 
that flies. The feathers of the geese are taken care of and 
sent to London, where they command a ready sale. The 
feathers of four grey geese, and of five Snow geese weigh one 
pound. The duration of their stay depends much on the 
weather ; a month at the most, and seldom less than three 
weeks. The flight of the geese is from daylight to about 
8 AM. and from 5 pm. to dusk. By the end of May, or the 


first week in June, the geese have all left us for their breeding 
places, much farther to the northward. In the spring several 
of the Geese are found with wild rice in their crops. ^ The 
wild rice grows in abundance to the south westward ; the 
nearest place to York Factory are the small Lakes at the 
mouth of the River Winipeg, distant about 420 miles. When 
M" Wales was at Fort Churchill in 1769 to observe the 
transit of Venus over the Sun,^ from curiosity he several 
times took angles of the swiftnes of the wild geese and found 
that in a steady gale of wind, their flight before it was sixty 
miles an hour. When shooting at them going before a gale 
of wind, at the distance of 40 to 50 yards, the aim is taken 
two or three inches before his beak. When going against the 
wind, at the insertion of the neck. In the middle of July 
several flocks of a very large species of grey goose arrived 
from the southward, they have a deep harsh note, and are 
called Gronkers, by others Barren Geese,^ from its being sup- 
posed they never lay eggs. If so, how is this species propa- 
gated, they very seldom ahght in our marshes ; but as they 
fly low a few of them are shot. Their meat is Hke that of 
the common gray goose. I do not remember seeing these 
geese in autumn. In the spring all the geese, ducks and other 
fowls come from the southward ; in autumn they all come 
from the northward. Their first arrival is in the early part 
of September, and their stay about three weeks. They keep 
arriving, night and day, and our solitary marshes become 
covered with noisy, animated Hfe. The same mode of shoot- 
ing them, is now as in the spring, but they do not answer the 
call so well, and the average number each man may kiU is 
from 25 to 30 geese for the season. The geese salted of the 

1 In 1895, while exploring the country east of Lake Winnipeg, I found 
wild rice growing in some of the small streams as far north as latitude 
53°, or only 350 miles south-west of York Factory. 

* See note on p. 9. 

=* Probably barren individuals of the Canada Goose, Branta cana- 
densis (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 


spring hunt, are better than those of autumn ; they are 
fatter, and more firm, those salted in Autumn are only be- 
ginning to be fat, which, with young geese, in this state, make 
poor salted food. In autumn, the last three days of the geese 
appear to be wholly given in cleaning and adjusting every 
feather of every part, instead of feeding at pleasure every- 
where ; the Manito of the geese, ducks and other fowls had 
given his orders, they collect, and form flocks of, from 40 to 
60, or more ; and seem to have leaders ; the Manito of the 
aquatic fowl has now given his orders for their departure to 
milder climates ; his presence sees the setting in of winter, 
and the freezing of the ponds &c. The leaders of the flock 
have now a deep note. The order is given, and flock after 
flock, in innumerable numbers, rise. Their flight is of a 
regular form, making an angle of about 25 degrees ; the two 
sides of the angle are unequal, that side next to the sea being 
more than twice the length of the side next to the land ; 
where I have counted 30 geese on one side, the short side 
has only ten to twelve, and so in proportion ; the point of 
the angle is a single goose, which leads the flock ; when tired 
of opening the air, [it] falls into the rear of the short line, 
and the goose next on the long, or sea, line, takes his place, 
and thus in succession. Thus in two, or three days, these 
extensive marshes, swarming with noisy life, become silent, 
and wholly deserted ; except when wounded, no instance has 
ever been known of geese, or ducks, being found in frozen 
ponds, or Lakes. The Svv^an is sometimes frozen in, and loses 
his life. 

The different species of Geese on the east side of the 
[Rocky] Mountains pass the winter in the mild climate of the 
Floridas, the mouths of the Mississippe, and around the 
Gulph of Mexico, from these shores the wild Geese and Swans 
proceed to the northward as far as the Latitude of d'j to 69 
north, where they have the benefit of the Sun's light and heat 
for the twenty four hours for incubation, and rarely breed 


under twenty hours of Sunlight. These wild birds proceed, 
through the pathless air, from where they winter to where 
they breed, a distance of about two thousand seven hundred 
miles, in a straight line ; and from the place of breeding to 
the mouths of the Mississippe, and adjacent shores the same 
distance. The question arises, by what means do the wild 
geese make such long journeys with such precision of place ; 
the wise, and learned, civiHzed man answers, by Instinct, but 
what is Instinct : a property of mind that has never been 
defined. The Indian beHeves the geese are directed by the 
Manito, who has the care of them. Which of the two is 

The Frogs ^ now cease to croak ; for they must also prepare 
for winter. A few Cranes ^ frequent these marshes, as also a 
few Bitterns.^ They pass the whole of the open season in 
pairs, yet their eggs are never, or very rarely found, they are 
so well hid in the rushes of quagmires which cannot be ap- 
proached. The Bittern arrives and departs in pairs mostly 
in the night, it is a bird of slow wing, easy to be kiUed. The 
Cranes arrive, and depart in flocks of thirty to fifty, their 
flight is an angle of fuU thirty degrees, both sides [of which] 
are nearly equal ; I have never seen the leader quit his place. 
They are good eating, fleshy, but not fat. They make the 
best of broth : the ducks and lesser birds arrive and depart 
in flocks, but in no regular order. 

The society and occupations of the Factories along the 
shores of Hudson's Bay are so much alike, that the description 
of one Factory may serve for all the others. I shall describe 
York Factory, being the principal Factory and in point of 
commerce worth aU the other Factories.* The establishment 

1 Rana cantabrigensis latiremis Cope. [E. A. P.] 

■ Grus canadensis (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 

3 Botaurus lentiginosus (Montagu). [E. A. P.] 

* York Factory is situated on the top of a cliff of clay thirty feet high, 
on the west bank of the Hayes river, five miles above its mouth. Oppo- 
site to it the water in the river is from ten to twenty feet in depth, quite 



was composed of a Resident, an Assistant, with one, or two 

clerks, a Steward and about forty men, over whom there was 

a foreman. The Ship for the Factory arrives generally about 

the latter end of August, sometimes later, this depends on 

their passage through Hudson's Straits, which in some years 

sufficiently deep for small ships or sloops of moderate draught, but at 
the mouth of the river are extensive flats over which it is difficult to pass, 
except at high tide, and over which the sea-going ships that bring the 
supphes from England to York Factory do not attempt to cross. 

At the present time the Factory consists of a series of buildings ar- 
ranged around a quadrangle, some of which are large stores or warehouses, 
while others are residences for the masters and employees engaged there. 
The present buildings, or more probably smaller ones which preceded 
them, were erected by Joseph Colen in 1789 and the following years, the 
central " depot " having been built some time in the early part of last 

Old York Fort was situated about half a mile below the present fort 
on the same side of the river, and it was to this fort that Thompson 
came when he arrived from Churchill in 1785. Previous to that time it 
had been occupied by the English and French alternately for about a 
hundred years, until 1782, when it was taken by the French under Admiral 
de la Perouse, and was burned to the ground, and the English inhabi- 
tants were carried captive to France. 

In the following year it was rebuilt by the Hudson's Bay Company, 
and from that time was occupied for several years ; but in the spring of 
1788 the ground on which it stood was flooded to a depth of several feet, 
and Joseph Colen, who was in charge at the time, determined that he 
would move it to a higher situation. Accordingly, shortly afterwards, he 
commenced to build the fort on its present site, and by 1792 the moving 
was completed, and the men with their goods and supplies were all at 
the new fort. 

Until the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway across the con- 
tinent in 1885, the trading goods for the whole of the interior of the 
western country from Hudson Bay to the Rocky Mountains, and even 
beyond these mountains, were brought here from England, whence they 
were distributed by canoes or boats throughout the interior country, and 
the same boats which took the supplies into the country brought back to 
York Factory loads of furs which were carried to England and were dis- 
posed of in the markets of London. 

Since the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway, over which trading 
goods and furs can be easily carried in and out of the country, the im- 
portance of York Factory £is a centre of distribution has greatly decreased, 
until now it is merely a distributing point for a few small fur-trading stations 
within a radius of a few hundred miles that as yet have no easier and 
more rapid mode of access to the civilized world. 


is sadly blocked up with ice ; the Ship anchors in the mouth 
of the River, about five miles below the Factory, the whole 
attention of all hands is turned with unloading, and reloading 
of the Ship ; the time of doing which, depends on the weather, 
and takes from ten to fifteen days. The ship having sailed 
for London, this may be called the beginning of our year. 
The regular occupations of the Factory now commence ; 
eight or ten of the best shots among us, among which are sure 
to be the clerks, with the few Indians that may be near, are 
sent off to the marshes to shoot geese, ducks, cranes &c for 
the present supply of the Factory, and to be salted for the 
winter. Axes are put in order. Boats got ready with Pro- 
visions, and about twenty men sent up the River to the 
nearest forests to cut down pine trees, branch them, lop off 
the heads, and carry them on their shoulders to the great 
wood pile, near the river bank ; the trees are so small that a 
man generally carries two, or three, to the wood pile. When 
the quantity required for fuel, is thus cut and piled, the wood 
is taken by a large sledge drawn by the men to a bay of the 
River, where rafts can be made and floated to the Factory, 
which is completed in April, but not floated to the Factory 
until June and July. Accounts, Books, grouse shooting &c 
employ the time of those at the Factory. Winter soon sets 
in ; the geese hunters return, and out of them are formed two 
parties of three or four men, each for grouse shooting, snare- 
ing hares &c. Each party has a canvas tent, Kke a soldier's 
bell tent with the top cut off to let the smoke out. Fowling 
pieces, ammunition, fish hooks and lines, steel traps and three 
weeks of salted provisions, with our bedding of blankets &c 
completes our equipment. The shore ice of the River is 
now frozen to the width of half a mile, or more ; the current 
of the River has much drift ice, it is time for the hunters to 
be off, the boats are ready, and we are placed on the ice, with 
four flat sleds, and a fine large Newfoundland Dog ; the 
Boats return and we are left to our exertions. Our party 


consisted of four men and an Indian woman. We loaded the 
sleds with the tent, our baggage and some provisions, leaving 
the rest for another trip, each of us hauled about seventy 
pounds and the fine dog lOO pounds weight. We proceeded 
to a large Brook, called French Creek,^ up which we went 
about a mile to where the Pines of the forest were of some 
size and clean growth ; the tent poles were now cut, and 
placed to form a circular area of about 12 to 14 feet diameter 
and 12 feet in heighth ; the door poles are the strongest, 
about these poles we wrapped our tents, the fire place is in 
the centre, and our beds of pine branches, with a Log next 
to the fire. Our furniture [was] a three gallon brass kettle, 
with a lesser one for water, two, or three tin dishes, spoons &c. 
A Hoard is next made of Logs well notched into each other 
of about eight feet in length, six feet wide at the bottom, 
five feet in height, and the top narrowed to two feet covered 
with Logs to secure our provisions and game from the 
carnivorous animals. Our occupations were angHng of Trout,^ 
snareing of Hares, ^ shooting white Grouse,* trapping of 
Martens,^ Foxes ® and Wolverines.'' Our enemy the Polar Bear, 
was prowHng about, the sea not being sufficiently frozen to 
allow him to catch Seals. 

By the latter end of November we had procured sufficient 
game to load three flat sleds, for the Factory, hauled by two of 
us and our Dog. To arrive at the Factory took us the whole 
of the day The same evening W"" Budge, a fine handsome 
man, John Alellam, and the Indian woman were frying pork 

^ French Creek is below and on the opposite side of Hayes river from 
York Factory, and is seven miles distant from it in a direct line. Its 
Indian name is Notawatowi Sipi, meaning " The Creek-from-which-you- 
f etch-the-people . ' ' 

"^ Cristivomer naniaycush (\Valbaum). [E. A. P.] 

* Lepus americanus Erxleben. [E. A. P.] 

* Ptarmigan, Lagopus albus and L. rupestris. [E. A. P.] 

* Martes americana ahieticola (Preble). [E. A. P.] 

* Alopex lagopus inmtitus (Merriam). [E. A. P.] 
' Gulo luscus (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 


and grouse for supper, [when] the smell attracted a Polar 
Bear, who marched to the Tent, and around it, his heavy 
tread was heard, and no more cooking thought of. As usual 
in the evening, the fowling pieces were being washed and 
cleaned, and were then not lit for use, but there was a loaded 
musquet. At length Bruin found the door, and thrust in his 
head and neck, the Tent Poles prevented further entrance. 
Budge cHmbed up the tent poles and left Mellam and his 
indian woman to fight the Bear, the former snatched up the 
Musket, it snapped ; seizing it by the muzzle he broke ojff the 
stock on the head of the Bear, and then with hearty blows 
appHed the barrel and lock to his head ; the indian woman 
caught up her axe on the other side of the door, and in Hke 
manner struck Bruin on the head, such an incessant storm of 
blows, [as] made him withdraw himself ; he went to the 
Hoard and began to tear it in pieces, for the game ; a fowling 
piece was quickly dried, loaded with two balls, and fired into 
him, the wound was mortal, he went a few paces and fell, 
with a dreadful growl. Budge now wanted to descend from 
the smoky top of the Tent, but the Woman with her axe in 
her hand (a-J- lbs) heaped wood on the fire, and threatened to 
brain him if he came down. ?Ie begged hard for his Hfe, she 
was determined, fortunately Mellam snatched the axe from 
her, but she never forgave him, for the indian woman pardons 
Man for everything but want of courage, this is her sole 
support and protection, there are no laws to defend her. 
The next morning on examining the head of the Bear, the 
skin was much bruised and cut, but the bone had not a mark 
on it. We had two steel traps of double springs, with strong 
iron teeth, weighing each seventy pounds, and five feet in 
length, for Wolves ^ and Wolverines : one of these was baited 
with a Grouse, and placed on the ice at the mouth of the 
brook, a Polar Bear took the bait, the iron teeth closed on his 
head, he went about half [a] mile and then laid down ; the 

* Canis occidentalis Richardson. [E. A, P.] 


next morning we traced the Bear, he rose up, a curious looking 
figure with a trap of five feet across his nose, he went directly 
for the sea, and we respectfully followed ; our guns had only 
small shot ; when arrived at the edge of the ice. Bruin made 
a halt, and no doubt thought such a trap across his nose 
would be an impediment to swimming, and catching Seals, 
wisely determined to get rid of it, turning round and looking 
at us, he bent his head and the trap on the ice, and placing 
his heavy fore paws on each of the springs, he loosened himself 
from the trap, and looking at us with an air of contempt, 
dashed into the sea, and swam away. We got the trap, but 
his heavy paws had broken one of the springs and rendered 
the trap useless. The other hunting party about three miles 
to the eastward of us had also the visit of a Polar Bear ; one 
evening from the smell of fried pork and grouse, he came to 
the tent, marched round, and round it, but found no entrance, 
his heavy tread warned the inmates to be on their guard. 
The bear reared himself up on the tent, he placed the claws 
of his fore paws through the canvas, the man opposite ready 
with his gun, guided by his paws, fired and mortally wounded 
him ; but in faUing the Bear brought down the tent and 
tent poles, under which, with the bear were three men and 
one woman, whom, the Bear in the agonies of death, sadly 
kicked about, until relieved by the man who had shot the 
Bear, the tent was drawn over his head, and he was free. 

I must return to our occupations ; of the speckled Trout * 
we caught about ten dozen of two to three pounds weight, 
through holes in the ice of the brook, they were readily 
caught with a common hook and line, baited with the heart of 
a Grouse ; as the cold increased and the thickness of the ice, 
the Trout went to deeper water, where we could not find 
them. The Hares, when they go to feed, which is mostly 
in the night time, keep a regular path in the snow, across 
which a hedge is thrown of pine trees of close branches, but 
^ Cristivomer namaycush (Walbaum). [E. A. P.] 


cut away at the path ; a long pole is tied to a tree, in such a 
manner that the butt end shall overbalance the upper end 
and the weight of a hare ; to this end the snare of brass wire 
is tied by a piece of strong twine, this end of the pole is tied 
to the tree laid across the path, by a slip knot, and the snare 
suspended at four inches above the snow. The Hare comes 
bounding along, enters the snare, the slip knot is undone, the 
top of the pole is free, the butt end by it's weight descends, 
and Puss is suspended by the snare about six to eight feet 
above the surface of the snow. This height is required to 
prevent them being taken by Foxes and Martens. The other 
Hares that follow this path, have for the night a free passage ; 
but the next day the snare is reset, until no more can be 
caught ; where the Hares are plenty, hedges of pine trees, 
with their branches extend 200 yards, or more, in length ; 
on a fine Moonlight night the Hares move about freely, and 
from eighteen to twenty [are] caught in a night, but in bad 
weather, three, or four, or none ; the average may be six to 
eight p"^ night : of all furrs the furr of the hare is the warmest, 
we place pieces of it in our mittens, the skin is too thin for any 
other purpose. When the cold becomes very severe, we leave 
off snareing until February or March, as the Hares lie still. 

There are two species of white Grouse, the Rock ^ and the 
Willow, the former is a lesser species with a black stripe round 
the upper eyelid, and feeds among the rocks. The willow 
Grouse^ has a red stripe round the upper eyelid, is a finer 
bird than the rock grouse, and one fifth larger : they are 
both well feathered to the very toe nails ; all their feathers are 
double. He close on each other, two in one quill, or socket, 
and appear as one feather ; the under side of the foot have 
hard, rough, elastic feathers like bristles. The white Grouse, 
in the very early part of winter, arrive in small flocks of ten 
to twenty, but as the winter advances and the cold increases, 

* Lagopus rupestris (Gmelin). [E. A. P.] 

* Lagopus a Ibus (Gmelin). [E. A. P.] 


they become more plentiful, and form flocks of fifty to one 
hundred ; they Hve on the buds of the willows, which cover 
the ground between the sea shore and the pine forests ; on 
the south side of Hayes's River, there is a strip of alluvial 
formed by a few bold Brooks of half, to one mile in width, 
and about ten miles in length, next to impassable in summer 
for marsh and water, where they feed ; they are shot on the 
ground as they feed : at first each man may average ten 
grouse p' day ; but by the beginning of December they 
become numerous, and the average of each man may be 
about twenty p" day. Each grouse weighs two pounds, 
forming a good load to walk with in snow shoes ; and at length 
to carry to the tent ; when the feathers are taken off, the 
bowels taken out, and in this state [they are] put into the 
hoard to freeze, and thus taken to the Factory ; they now 
average one pound each, and the feathers of twenty grouse 
weigh one pound. At night the Grouse, each singly, burrows 
in the snow, and when the cold is intense, do the same in the 
middle of the day. However intense the cold, even to 
85 degrees below the freezing point, I never knew any to 
perish with cold, when not wounded ; the same of all other 
birds, kind Providence has admirably adapted them to the 

After the bitter cold of December and January is passed, 
they congregate in large flocks. Each man now bags from 
thirty to forty grouse p' day, but as this is a Load too heavy 
to hunt with, part is buried in the Snow and only taken up 
when going to the Tent. The weather now allowing us to 
load our guns ; for in the intense cold, the shot is no sooner 
fired than our hands are in our large mittens ; we walk and 
pick up the bird, then get the powder in, and walk again, at 
length [put in] the shot, and the gun is loaded ; it is needless 
to say, exposed to such bitter cold, with no shelter, we cannot 
fire many shots in a short day. Gloves are found to be worse 
than useless. 


In the latter end of February, the month of March, and 
to the end of the season, the Grouse are netted, during which 
[time] not a shot is fired, except at Hawks : ^ They are a great 
plague to us, as the flocks were going before us, by short 
flights, a Hawk appearing, they dived down under the Snow, 
and for some time staid there. For this purpose a large snow 
drift is chosen, level on the top, or made so, on which is placed 
a square net of strong twine of twenty feet each side, well 
tied to four strong poles, the front side is supported by two 
uprights, four feet in height ; to which is tied a strong Hne of 
about fifty feet in length, conducted to a bush of willows, 
the side poles being about four feet longer than the other, the 
back of the net is also lifted up about two feet above the 
snow, so as to leave room for the grouse to pass ; two, or three 
bags of fine gravel are brought, and laid under the centre of 
the net, mixed with willow buds taken out of the crops of 
the Grouse we have shot, these are gently dried over the fire 
to make them look Hke fresh buds : at first we have no great 
difficulty in starting and guiding the flocks towards the net, 
and so soon as we can bring them within view of the gravel 
and buds, they eagerly run to them, and crowd one on another, 
the man at the end of the Hne pulls away the two uprights, 
the net falls, we directly run and throw ourselves on the net, 
as the strong efforts of forty or flfty of these active birds 
might make an opening in the net. We have now to take 
the neck of each grouse between our teeth, and crack the neck 
bone, without breaking the skin, and drawing blood, which 
if done, the foxes destroy the part of the net on which is 
blood and around it, which sometimes happens to our vexation, 
and we have to mend the net. Although for the first few 
days we may net 120 Grouse p' day, yet in about a fortnight 
they become so tame, they no longer form a large flock, and 
at length we are obHged to drive them before us Hke barn 

^ The Gyrfalcons, Falco islandus Briinnich, and F. i. gyrfalco Linn., 
and the Goshawk, are inveterate enemies of the ptarmigan. [E. A. P.] 


door fowls, by eight or ten at a time, for every haul of the 
net, and thus in the course of a long day, we do not net 
more than forty to sixty grouse. In these months they have 
a pleasing cheerful call, in the early and latter parts of the 
day, of Kabow, Kabow, Kow a e. The hens have the same 
call, but in a low note. In bad weather the willow grouse 
shelters itself under the snow, but the Rock grouse run about, 
as if enjoying the Storm. During the winter whatever may 
be the number of the flock, and however near to each other, 
each burrows singly in the snow, their feathers are of a 
brilliant white, if possible whiter than the snow. In the 
months of March and April, part of the feathers, particularly 
about the neck, and the fore part of the body, change color 
to a glossy brown, or deep chocolate, upon a ground of 
brilliant white, very beautiful, and in this state are often 
stuffed and sent to London. No dove is more meek than the 
white grouse, I have often taken them from under the net, 
and provoked them all I could without injuring them, but 
aU was submissive meekness. Rough beings as we were, 
sometimes of an evening we could not help enquiring why 
such an angehc bird should be doomed to be the prey of 
carnivorous animals and birds, the ways of Providence are 
unknown to us. They pair in May, and retire to the Pine 
Forests, make their nests on the ground, under the low 
spreading branches of the dwarf Pine, they lay from eleven 
to thirteen eggs, the young, from the shell, are very active 
and follow their dam. There is a third species caUed the 
Pine, or Swamp, grouse,^ of dark brown feathers, it feeds on 
the leaves of the white pine, and it's flesh tastes of the pine 
on which it feeds ; it is found sitting on the branches of the 
tree, ten, or twelve, feet above the snow, or ground ; it is a 
stupid bird, a snare is tied to the end of a stick put round it's 
neck and puUed to the ground. It is only eaten for want of 
better ; they are not numerous, [are] solitary and never in 
^ Spruce Grouse, Canachites canadensis (Linn.). [E, A. P.] 


flocks. A few Pheasants ^ are shot, they are something larger 
than the white grouse, of fine dark plumage, but not to be 
compared to the English Pheasant. Their habits are much 
the same as the white grouse except [that] when they are 
started, they fly to, and settle on the Trees, and not on the 
snow, or ground. Late in Autumn and early in the Spring 
the delicate Snow Bunting ^ appear in small flocks, they are 
shot, and also taken by small nets, they are a delicacy for the 
table. They fly from place to place, feed on the seeds of grass, 
but do not stay more than three weeks each time. The 
Tomtits ^ stay all winter, and feed on grass seeds. The hand- 
some, Httle curious bird, the Cross Beak,* leave us late in 
Autumn and arrive early in March. They are always in small 
flocks, and their whole employment seems to be, cutting off 
the cones of the Pines, which their cross beaks perform as 
with a pair of scissors. The flock takes one tree, if large, at a 
time and shower down the Cones Hke hail, I never saw them 
feed on them : they remain and breed in the summer. At 
all seasons the Butcher bird is with us, and called Whisky] ack,^ 
from the Indian name " Weeskaijohn." It is a noisy, familiar 
bird, always close about the tents, and will alight at the very 
doors, to pick up what is thrown out ; he lives by plunder, 
and on berries, and what he cannot eat he hides ; it is easily 
taken by a snare, and brought into the room, seems directly 
quite at home ; when spirits is offered, it directly drinks, is 
soon drunk and fastens itself anywhere tiU sober. A Hunter 
marching through the forest may see a chance one, but if an 
animal is killed, in a few minutes there are twenty of them. 
They are a nuisance, picking and dirtying the meat, and 
nothing frightens them which the hunter can hang up. When 

1 Sharp-tailed Grouse, Pedioecetes phasianellus (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 

* Plectrophenax nivalis (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 

* Probably Hudsonian Chickadee, Penthestes hudsonicus (Forster). 
[E. A. P.] 

* Loxia curvirostra minor (Brehm), and L. leucoptera Gmelin. [E. A. P.] 
^ Canada Jay, Perisoreus canadensis (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 


the cold is intense, the feathers are ruffled out to twice it's 
size ; all carnivorous birds appear, as it were, to loosen their 
feathers, whereas the Grouse seem to tighten their feathers 
around them. The Raven ^ is the same bird here, as over all 
the world, stealing and plundering whatever he can, early 
and late on the wing, and sometimes taken in the traps not 
intended for him. In winter, when taken to shelter, he 
ruffles his feathers, and chooses a snug place in the pines 
exposed to the sun. The Indians do not Hke the Raven, as 
in hunting he often foUows them, and by cawing noise, 
startles the animals, so as to make them look about, and be 
on their guard ; when in their power he is sure to die. Other 
Birds and Animals I shall notice when writing on the interior 
countries, except the White Fox ' which is found only along 
the sea shore (and not in the interior) and near the mouths 
of Rivers ; he is the least in size of aU the Foxes, and the 
least in value ; it's skin is worth only, about six to ten shillings ; 
like all his species by nature a thief, following the Hunters 
to pick up wounded birds, they are readily caught in traps 
and killed by set guns. By a well laid Hne of traps and guns, 
the produce of the early part of the winter is about six of 
these Foxes p"^ night. With all their cunning they are a stupid 
animal. On meeting one of them on the ice, I have often 
made a trap of pieces of ice, baited it, while he was looking 
at me, then retired some forty yards, he would then run to 
the trap, look at me as if asking permission to take the bait, 
run his head into the trap and be caught ; in this respect he 
differs very much from aU the other species. Speaking so 
often of traps and set guns, I may as weU describe them : 
For a Marten, a throat log, of about 4 feet in length, of a 
small pine is first laid on the snow, frequently some branches 
under it to keep it from sinking in the snow, two stakes are 
then driven, one on each side into the snow and moss near 

^ Corvus corax principalis Ridgway. [E. A. P.] 
2 Alopex lagopus innuitus (Merriam). [E. A. P.] 



the middle ; about eight inches from these, other two are 
driven, to form a doorway. The sides and back are also of 
small stakes ; the neck log is about six feet in length, and 
passes thro' between the four stakes a few inches, the other 
end rests on some branches on the snow, a small stick of about 
six inches, on one end baited with the head of a grouse, the 
other end is half round, and rests on the throat log, on which 
a post of four inches in height is placed and supports the 
neck log, to give free entrance to the animal, the top of the 
trap, and above the neck log is well covered with pine branches 
to prevent any access to the bait ; other logs are laid on the 
neck log for wait to detain the animal, which commonly is 
soon dead. These traps are made large, and strong, in pro- 
portion to the animal they are intended for. Set guns and 
steel traps are weU known to the civilized world. 

The month of April, from the thawing of the snow, and 
the grouse leaving to make their nests, obliges us to give up 
the winter hunting, and we return to the Factory to pass a 
dull time until the arrival of the geese, for which we get 
ready. In our Tents we had a comfortable fire, and the 
chances of the day in shooting, trapping and netting, with a 
few hearty curses on the hawks and foxes for the grouse they 
took from us, at which they were very clever, frequently 
keeping near us, though out of shot, and as soon as we killed 
a bird, before we could load the gun, one, or the other, 
would pounce on a grouse and carry it off : We had some- 
times the satisfaction of seeing these two rogues worry each 
other ; the Hawks ^ were mostly of the short wing and could 
not carry much, and a grouse weighing about two pounds, 
at about two or three hundred yards they had to alight and 
tear out the bowels, their favourite food, the fox was upon 
them, and made them take another flight. Sometimes the fox 
seized the bird, in this case the hawk was continually attacking 
him with blows of his claws on his neck, near to his head, the 

* Probably the Goshawk, Astur atricapillus (Wilson). [E. A. P.] 


fox sprang at the hawk, to no purpose, and the moment he 
put down his head to seize the bird, the hawk again struck 
him, and thus the fox made his meal. The long winged 
hawks carry a grouse with ease to the Trees, where they are 
secure from the foxes. The summer months pass away 
without regret, the myriads of tormenting flies allow no re- 
spite, and we see the cold months advance with something 
like pleasure, for we can now enjoy a book, or a walk. October 
and November produce their ice and snow, the Rivers freeze 
over and form a solid bridge to cross where we please, our 
winter clothing is ready, and gloomy December is on us. 
The cold increases continually, with very little relaxation, the 
snow is now as dry as dust, about two feet in depth, it adheres 
to nothing, we may throw a gun into it and take it up as free 
of snow, as if in the air, and no snow adheres to our Snow 
Shoes. The Aurora Borealis is seen only to the northward, 
sometimes with a tremulous motion, but seldom bright ; 
halos of the sun also appear. The month of January comes, 
and continues with intense cold ; from the density of the air, 
the halos, or mock suns, at times appear as bright as the real 
Sun ; but when in this state, betokens bad weather. The 
halos of the Moon are also very pleasing. 

A curious formation now takes place called Rime, of 
extreme thinness, adhering to the trees, willows and every- 
thing it can fasten on, it's beautiful, clear, spangles forming 
flowers of every shape, of a most brilliant appearance, and the 
sun shining on them makes them too dazzling to the sight. 
The lower the ground, the larger is the leaf, and the flower ; 
this brilliant Rime can only be formed in calm clear weather 
and a gale of wind sweeps away all this magic scenery, to 
be reformed on calm days ; it appears to be formed of frozen 
dew. The actual quantity of snow on the ground is not more 
than 2i feet in depth in the woods, clear of drift, very hght 
and dry ; almost every fall of snow is attended with a gale 
of NE. wind. The falling snow with the moveable snow on 


the ground, causes a drift and darkness in which the traveller 
is bewildered, and sometimes perishes. The months of 
February and March have many pleasant clear days, the 
gaudy, spangled Rime is most brilliant, and requires a strong 
eye to look upon it. The climate is more moderate, there 
are a few fine days, the sun is bright with a little warmth, 
the snow lower, but does not thaw. In the months of March 
and April, the Snow too often causes snow blindness, of a 
most painful nature. As I never had it, I can only describe 
the sensations of my companions. Accustomed to march in 
all weathers, I had acquired a power over my eyelids to open, 
or contract them as circumstances required, and to admit 
only the requisite quantity of Hght to guide me, and thus [I] 
prevented the painful effects of snow blindness. In the case 
of those affected the blue eye suffers first and most, the gray 
eye next, and the black eye the least ; but none are exempt 
from snow blindness ; the sensations of my companions, and 
others, were all the same ; they all complained of their eyes, 
being, as it were, full of burning sand ; I have seen hardy men 
crying like children, after a hard march of four months in 
winter. Three men and myself made for a trading post in 
the latter part of March. They all became snow blind, and 
for the last four days I had to lead them with a string tied to 
my belt, and [they] were so completely bhnd that when they 
wished to drink of the Httle pools of melted snow, I had to 
put their hands in the water. They could not sleep at night. 
On arriving at the trading Post, they were soon relieved by 
the application of the steam of boiling water as hot as they 
could bear it, this is the Indian mode of cure, and the only 
efficient cure yet known, but all complained of weakness of 
sight for several months after. Black crape is sometimes used 
to protect the eyes from the dazzling light of the snow, but 
the Hunter cannot long make use of it, the chase demands 
the whole power of his eyesight. When thirsty a mouthful 
of snow wets the mouth but does not relieve thirst : the 


water of snow melted by the sun has a good taste, but snow 
melted in a kettle over a fire, has a smoky taste, until made 
to boil for a few minutes, this takes away the smoky taste, 
and snow being put in, makes good water. 

Of the native Indians along the shore of Hudson's Bay I 
wish to say as Httle as possible. The Company has the Bay in 
full possession, and can enforce the strictest temperance of 
spirituous liquors, by their orders to their chief Factors, but 
the ships at the same time bringing out several hundred gallons 
of vile spirits called Eng. Brandy,^ no such morality is thought 
of. No matter what service the Indian performs, or does he 
come to trade his furrs, strong grog is given to him, and 
sometimes for two or three days Men and Women are all 
drunk, and become the most degraded of human beings.^ 

1 In 1785 the Hudson's Bay Company imported to York Factory, 
over and above what it had imported to Churchill and Moose Factories, 
2,028 gallons of brandy. In 1794, under Colen's regime, the importation of 
brandy to the same place rose to 7,900 gallons. In addition to this, the 
C-ompany operated a small distillery at York Factory at the same time. 

» In Thompson's note-books some pages are taken up by what he calls 
" Index of his Journals as Extended," in which he gives the contents of 
a number of pages which were not in the original manuscript as I obtained 
it, and of which I have been able to find no trace among any of his papers . 
It is possible that the pages were never written, though he may have out- 
lined their contents. These pages come in at this point in his Journal, 
and the following is the extension of the index as he gives it : 

"27*- The fur trade H. B. only 2 inland houses. 

" 27''- Embark as Clerk to Mr. Mitchell Oman. Tracking. 

" 27<=- Description of route to the Great Rapid & C. Place. 

" 27<i- Description of route to Cumberland House. 

" 27e- Description of route to the Houses for Winter. 

" 27*- Cleared ground & builded a house. 

"278- Character of our neighbours. 

" zi^- Advantages of the Canada Fur traders. 

" 27'- Bow River trade in furs & provisions. 

"27^- Mr. Hudson, his character. 

"271- Cumberland Lake. 

" 27">- Up the river to Buckingham House. Outfit to trade. 

" 27"- Barter, trade, &c. 

" 27°- Eagle catching on conical knolls. 

" 27?- Journey to the one Pine. Cut down for one third. 

" 27<i- March on. Animals very scarce. 


' 27'- Arrive at the Bow River. Cross it. Meet Peeagans. 

' 27»- Lodge with an old man. Basins, &c., return northward. 

' 27'" Old Sakka mappi & his native country. 

'27". Horses & mules arrive. Kootanae Appee. 

' 27'- Kootanae Appee. War Chief. 

' 27^'- Right & left hands. 

' 27^- Trade. Return to the trading house. Mr. Tomison. 

' 27y- Mr. Tomison. Hudson House & horses, 

' 272^- How to clear & cool river water. 

' 27**- Thirst taken away by bathing. 

' 27^*'- The Plaines. Ponds of salt, &c. 

' 27"=- Basins. Break my right leg. Cumberland House. 

' 27*^- Mr. Turnor arrives. Practical astronomy. Arrive at York 

"28. York Factory." 



Musk Rat country — Boundaries — Frozen soil — Forest — White 
Birch — Rind of White Birch — Berries — Misaskutum 
Berry — Fish — Pike — Trout — White Fish — Carp — 
Sturgeon — Swan — Marten — Accident while trapping Marten 
— Nature of Marten — Wolverine — Pranks of Wolverine. 

HAVING described what is peculiar to the wild 
shores of Hudson's Bay, I now turn to the interior 
country, and include a space from Hudson's Bay 
of about three hundred miles in width, known to the Fur 
Traders by the name of the Musk Rat country. The geology 
of this country is quite distinct from the countries westward, 
it is composed of granitic and other siHcious Rocks ; from the 
parallel of 54 or 55 degrees north, this rocky region extends 
northward to the extremity of the continent, and is about 
400 miles in width ; to the southward of the above line, this 
region extends southward to the coasts of Labrador ; every 
where it's character is much the same, almost everywhere 
rock covered with moss, the spots of tolerable soil are neither 
large, nor frequent, containing very many Lakes, the Streams 
from which find their way to the large Rivers. This Region 
is bounded on the west by the great chain of Lakes, the prin- 
cipal of which are Lake Superior, the Rainy Lake, the Lake of 
the Woods, Winepeg, the Cedar, and chain of Lakes north- 

* The country here designated the Muskrat country is a portion of 
the great Archaean protaxis or hinterland of Canada which is only now 
being opened to settlement. The Hudson Bay Railway, which is now 
being built, will run through it from The Pas on the Saskatchewan river 
to the mouth of the Nelson river. 



ward to the Athabasca and great Slave Lakes. The northern 
parts are either destitute of Woods, or they are low and small ; 
especially about Hudson's Bay where the ground is always 
frozen ; even in the month of August, in the woods, on taking 
away the moss, the ground is thawed at most, for two inches 
in depth : M' Joseph Colen,^ the Resident at York Factory, 
on having a Cellar dug for a new building, found the earth 
frozen to the depth of five and a half feet, below which it 
was not frozen. All the Trees on this frozen soil have no 
tap roots ; their roots spread on the ground, the fibres of 
the roots interlace with each other for mutual support ; and 
although around Hudson's Bay there is a wide belt of earth 
of about one hundred miles in width, apparently of ancient 
alluvial from the rounded gravel in the banks of the Rivers, 
yet it is mostly all a cold wet soil, the surface covered with 
wet moss, ponds, marsh and dwarf trees. The only dry 
places are the banks of the Brooks, Rivulets and Lakes. The 
rocky region close westward of this coarse alluvial already 
noticed, in very many places, especially around it's Lakes, 
and their intervals, have fine Forests of Pines, Firs, Aspins, 
Poplar, white and grey Birch, Alder and Willow ; all these 
grow in abundance, which makes all this region of rock and 
Lake appear a dense forest, but the surface of the Lakes 
cover full two fifths, or more, of the whole extent. The most 
usefuU trees are the White Birch,^ the Larch,^ and the Aspin.* 

^ Joseph Colen was one of the clerks at York Factory under Humphrey 
Marten when Thompson arrived there in 1785. On the departure of 
Marten for England in 1786, Colen succeeded him as Resident in charge 
of the fort, and remained in charge until his own recall in 1798. During 
these twelve years, he seems to have handled the fur-trade of the Company 
in a fairly capable manner, but he was often at cross-purposes with the 
Resident in charge of the Churchill district, and he did not get along well 
with William Tomison, who was in charge of the Saskatchewan trade, and 
who received his supplies from York. After Colen's recall, Tomison was 
made President of the Council at York. 

"^ Betula papyrifera Marsh. [E. A. P.] 

^ Larix laricina (Du Roi). [E. A. P.] 

* Populus tremuloides Michx. [E. A. P.] 


The White Birch, besides it's bark, which is good for tanning 
leather, has also a Rind which covers the bark, of which 
Canoes are made ; this Rind is thick in proportion to the 
intense cold of winter where the tree grows, in high Latitudes, 
it is one fourth of an inch thick, and wherever the winter 
is very cold. On the west side of the Mountains where the 
winters are very mild, the Rind is too thin to be of any use ; 
it thus appears to be a protection to the tree against the frost. 
The Wood of the Birch tree is used for making Sledges and 
Sleds, Axe helves and whatever requires strength and neat- 
ness, as the frames of Snow Shoes, but does not bear exposure 
to wet weather. The Rind is very useful to the natives and 
traders for making Canoes, Dishes, coverings for canoes, and 
for Tents and Lodges in the open Seasons. The White 
Birch is seldom more than four feet in circumference, but to 
the branches of which the head is formed, carries this girth 
with little diminution ; it can be raised from the bark only 
in mild weather, in hot weather it freely comes away, and a 
well grown tree will give from fifteen to thirty feet of Birch 
Rind ; it requires a practised Man to raise it without injuring 
it. The rind is never renewed, and the bark not having the 
shelter of the rinds becomes full of cracks, and the tree decays. 
In the spring of the year incisions in the tree yield a sap, 
which is boiled to a well tasted syrup. The grey birch ^ 
grows among the Rocks, it [is] a dwarf tree, crooked, knotty, 
and full of branches ; it's wood is stronger than the white 
birch ; it's rind too thin to be of use, it has many tatters 
hanging to it, which are much used for quickly Ughting a 
fire. The Larch is well known, a strong elastic wood, and 
make the best of Sleds. The poplar "^ and aspin,^ make the best 
of fire wood for a tent, [as] the wood does not sparkle, and 
the smoke is mild ; the smoke of no other woods should be 

^ Probably Betiila glandulosa Michx. [E. A. P.] 
* Populus balsamifera Linn. [E. A. P.] 
^ P. tremuloides. [E. A. P.] 


used for drying meat and fish. The smoke of these woods 
preserves both and gives an agreeable taste ; in places, there 
are fine forests of aspins of six inches to one foot diameter, 
and thirty to forty feet without branches. The White and 
Red Firs grow on a sandy soil, they are of dwarf growth, and 
full of knots and branches. There are four species of the 
Pine,^ besides the Cypress ; ^ the white Spruce ^ is noted for it's 
fine spreading branches, which form the beds of the traveller 
and the hunter ; In the frozen cHme of Hudson's Bay, only 
half of this tree can be used, the north east side being very 
brittle, and can hardly be called wood. The other Pines are 
mostly found in the interior, they thrive most near Lakes 
and Rivers, and in favorable places are of six feet girth, and 
forty to fifty feet in height. 

By the Natives the saplings of these serve for tent poles, 
laths and timbers for canoes, by the traders, the same pur- 
poses, and building of Houses. Of Berries there are twenty 
species all known in europe but one. They are, the dry * and 
swamp Cranberry,^ the Crow ® and Black Berries, two kinds of 
Raspberries ; ^ the Strawberry ; ^ two kinds of Cherry's,^ both 
are small. White and Red Currants ; ^^ the black Currant,^^ a 
.mild purgative ; two kinds of Gooseberries,^" two of Hipber- 
ries ; ^^ the Juniper berry ; " the Eye berry : ^^ the Bear Berry ;^^ 

1 The only true pine is Pinus divaricata (Ait.). [E. A. P.] 

^ Probably White Cedar, Thuja occidentalis Linn. [E. A. P.] 

* Picea canadensis (Mill.). [E. A. P.] 

* Probably Vaccinium vitisidcsa. [E. A. P.] 

^ Probably Oxycocctts oxycoccus (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 

* Empetrum nigrum Linn. [E. A. P.] 

' Rubus strigosus Michx., and R. chamcBtnorus Linn. [E. A. P.] 

* Fragaria canadensis (Michx.). [E. A. P.] 

» Prunus virginiana Linn., and P. pennsylvanica Linn. [E. A. P.] 
1° Red Currant, Ribes rubrum Linn. [E. A. P.] 
" Ribes hudsonianuni Richardson. [E. A. P.] 
" Northern Gooseberry, Ribes oxyacanthoides Linn. [E. A. P.] 
1* Wild Rose, Rosa acicularis Lindl. [E. A. P.] 
1* Probably Juniperus sabina Linn. [E. A. P.] 
1* Rubus arcticus Linn. [E. A. P.] 
!• Arctostaphylos tiva-ursi (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 


this has a low spreading plant which lies flat on the ground, 
it has it's use in medicine ; the Natives collect and dry the 
leaves, wherever it can be procured ; it is mixed with tobacco 
for smoking, giving to the smoke a mild, agreeable flavour. 
A berry of an agreeable acid called the Summer berry,^ it 
ripens late in Autumn, the Shrub of this berry has a large 
pith, takes a good polish and is used for Pipe Stems ; and the 
Misaskutum berry,^ perhaps peculiar to north america ; the 
berry grows abundantly on willow like shrubs, is of the color 
of deep blue, or black ; the size of a full grown green pea, 
very sweet and nourishing, the favorite food of small birds, 
and the Bears. They are very wholesome, and may safely be 
eaten as long as the appetite continues ; they are much 
sought after by the Natives, they collect and dry them in 
quantities for future use ; and mixed with Pimmecan, be- 
comes a rich and agreeable food. The wood is of a fine size 
for arrows, and where this can be got, no other is employed ; 
it is weighty, pliant, and non-elastic. As this berry is pre- 
ceded by a beautiful flower, and the berry is as rich as any 
currant from Smyrna and keeps as well, it ought to be culti- 
vated in Canada, and in England. 

The Rivers and Lakes have Pike,^ (the water wolf.) He 
preys on every fish he can master, even on his own species ; 
he seises his prey by the middle of the back, and keeps his 
hold until it is dead : when he swallows it. It catches readily 
at any bait, even a bit of red rag. It is a bold active fish, 
and in summer is often found with a mouse in it's stomach. 
It's jaws are strong, set with sharp teeth, somewhat curved, 
it is of aU sizes from one to fifteen pounds ; it is seldom 
found in company with the Trout,* which last appears to be 

* Viburnum opulus Linn. [E. A. P.] 

* Amelanchier alnifolia Nutt. This is the Saskatoon or Service 
Berry. [E. A. P.] 

^ Esox lucius Linn. [E. A. P.] 

* Cristivomer vamaycush (Walb.). [E. A. P.] 


the master fish, for where they are found In the same Lake, 
the Pike are confined to the shallow bays. The Trout to 
attain to a large size, they require to be in extensive deep 
Lakes. In this region they are from one to twenty pounds. 
They are as rich as meat. The white fish ^ is well known, their 
quaHty and size depends much on the depths of the Lakes. 
In shoal Lakes they are generally poor, and in deep Lakes fat 
and large, they are almost the sole subsistence of the Traders 
and their men in the winter, and part of the summer : they 
are caught in nets of five to six inches mesh, fifty fathoms in 
length, and five to six feet in depth ; which are set and 
anchored by stones in three to five fathoms water, if possible 
on sandy, or fine gravel, bottom. They weigh from two to ten 
pounds. They are a delicate fish, the net ought not to stand 
more than two nights, then [it ought to be] taken up and 
washed in hot water, dried and mended : Some of the Lakes 
have only a fall fishery and another in the spring, in this case 
the fish are frozen, and lose part of their good taste. Fish do 
not bear keeping, the maxim is ; " from the hook or the net 
directly into the kettle " of boiHng water. Those who live 
wholly on fish, without any sauce, and frequently without 
salt, know how to cook fish in their best state, for sauces 
make a fish taste well, which otherwise would not be eatable. 
There are two species of Carp, the red " and grey ; ^ the former 
is a tolerable fish ; the latter is so full of small bones, only 
the head and shoulders are eaten. They spawn in the spring, 
on the small Rapids, are in shoals, the prey of the Eagle, the 
Bear, and other animals. The Sturgeon * to be good must be 
caught in muddy Lakes, he is the fresh water hog, fond of 
being in shoal alluvials ; in such lakes it is a rich fish ; but in 
clear water not so good ; they weigh from ten to fifty pounds. 

^ Several species of Coregonus. [E. A. P.] 
^ Catostomus catostomus (Forster). [E. A. P.] 
^ Moxostoma lesneuri (Richardson). [E. A. P.] 
* Acipenser rubicundus Le Sueur. [E. A. P.] 


The Pickerel/ the Perch ^ and Methy ^ are all common ; 
these are all the varieties of fish found in this region worth 

With the Spring a variety of small birds arrive, they 
breed and remain during the summer, and depart for the 
southward in Autumn, they are all known to Europe. The 
Whippoorwill * arrives in the month of March. In the after- 
noon and evening as well as the morning, he flits from tree 
to tree about ten feet above the snow, with it's head down- 
wards, repeats it's cry of Whip poor will for two, or three 
minutes, and then flies to another tree ; only one species is 
known. The natives regard it as a peculiar bird and never 
hurt it. In some summers the flocks of Pigeons ^ are numerous, 
and make sad havoc of the Straw and Raspberries, in other 
summers they are very few. The Rooks ^ arrive in the latter 
end of April. The Natives regard the time of their arrival 
as the sure sign that winter has passed away, and the mild 
weather set in. The British population in Canada call them 
Crows, which latter bird is not known in North America. 
Two species of Eagle visit us, the large brown Eagle' is seen 
in March, and gives it's name to the Moon of this month ; 
it is merely a visitor, soars high, seldom alights, and then 
shows itself a most majestic bird ; it is sometimes shot, as the 
Natives set a high value on its plumage, and respect it as the 
master of all other birds ; from the tip of one wing to the tip 
of the other wing, it has been measured nine feet ; it's talons 
are long, very curved and strong, and it strikes with great 

1 Probably Stizostedion vitreum (Mitchill), the Wall-eyed Pike or Pike- 
perch. [E. A. P.] 

* The Yellow Perch, Perca flavescens (Mitchill), is probably found in the 
southern part of the region. [E. A. P.] 

^ Lota maculosa (Le Sueur). [E. A. P.] 

* I am unable to decide what bird is meant ; perhaps some small owl, 
but certainly not the Whip-poor-will. [E. A. P.] 

* Ectopistes migratorius (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 

* The American Crow, Corviis brachyrhynchos Brehm. [E. A. P.] 
' Aquila chryscBtos (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 


force ; it is supposed capable of carrying off a bird equal to 
it's own weight, which is ten to twelve pounds, some have 
weighed fourteen pounds ; yet the great Eagle of the Plains 
is larger than these. The Gray Goose ^ is accounted a very 
swift bird on the wing, at a distance we perceived a flock of 
these geese pursued by an Eagle. The latter did not seem to 
gain much on the former, they passed about one hundred 
yards from us (out of shot), the Eagle was then close to them, 
and going a short distance further, it came up to the third 
goose from the rear, and with one of it's claws, drove it's 
talons thro' the back of the goose close behind the wings, it 
fell as if shot, the Eagle stooped to take it, we ran and 
frightened it away ; and it kept on its flight after the other 
geese ; we picked up the goose, quite dead, the claws had 
perforated through the back bone over the heart. As they 
passed us, we remarked, the Eagle gained fast on the geese. 

The Hawks in like manner strike the birds they prey on ; 
The Natives say the Eagle readily carries off Ducks and Hares, 
but the gray goose is too heavy for him, but he soon tears it 
to pieces with his sharp crooked beak ; the Fox will contend 
with the Hawks for the birds they kill in the great Marshes 
and plains, but never with the Eagle. The wolf tries for the 
prey of the latter, and is sure to be beaten. 

The other species of Eagle is the White Headed,^ from the 
head and upper part of the neck being covered with white 
feathers which lie close on each other, it is called the bald- 
headed Eagle. I believe it to be peculiar to North America, 
the color of the rest of the neck, and of the body, is all the 
shades of a deep brown, with tinges of dark yellow. It lives 
mostly on fish, without any objection to a chance hare or 
duck. They are generally found in pairs, and build their 
nest in the branches of a poplar, close to the banks of a Lake, 
or River ; like the other species they lay only two, or three 

1 Branta canadensis (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 

* Haliceetus leucocephaliis alascanus Townsend. [E. A. P.] 


eggs, and rears it's young with great care : as it is, compara- 
tively, slow of flight, although it's wings extend seven to 
eight feet, it hovers over the surface of the water, [looking] 
for some fish of a weight that it can take out of the water, 
and carry off to it's nest. That it is successful the old, and 
young eagles, attest by their fatness ; the inside fat is 
purgative, and when they feed on trout, highly so : their 
flesh is eaten by the Natives, as being more fat and juicy, 
and [they] prefer them to Grouse. They seize their prey by 
the back, between the fins, and if weighty, make for the 
shore ; and there with their beak cut off the head of the 
fish, and thus take it to the nest. It sometimes strikes a fish 
too weighty for it, in this case the fish carries the Eagle under 
water where it loosens it's claws, and comes to the surface, 
its feathers all wet. It floats well, but as it cannot swim, is 
drifted to the shore by the wind or current, and must wait 
for it's feathers to dry, before it can take flight. 

There are five species of Hawk, three pass the winter. 
They prey on everything they can master. There are four 
species of the owl, one of them is very small. Two of the 
others are large, one of these is called the great White Owl ; ^ 
it weighs from ten to twelve pounds : the other is the noted 
Horned Owl,^ so named from it's having on each side of the 
head, stiff, erect, feathers in shape and size, Hke the ears of 
the White Fox ; it is a fine looking, grave bird, with large 
lustrous eyes, and in the dark sees remarkably well, and preys 
wholly in the night. They are easily tamed, I have often 
kept one during the winter ; it lived chiefly on mice, which 
it never attempts to swallow until it is sure it is dead, of this 
it judges by the animal ceasing to move ; perched on it's 
stand, and a live mouse presented to it, with its formidable 
talons, it seized the mouse by the loins, and instantly carried 
it to its mouth, and crushed the head of the mouse ; still 

1 Nyctea nyctea (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 

* Bubo virginianus subarcticus Hoy. [E. A. P.] 


holding it in one of it's claws, it watched till all motion 
ceased and then head foremost swallowed the mouse : often 
while the owl was watching the cessation of motion, with 
the end of a small willow, I have touched the head of the 
mouse, which instantly received another crush in it's beak, 
and thus [it] continued till it was weary, when losening it's 
claws, it seized the mouse by the head ; by giving motion to 
the body, it crushed it, and have thus vexed it until the 
body was in a pulp, yet the skin whole ; by leaving the Mouse 
quiet for about half a minute, it was swallowed ; from 
seve[ral] experiments I concluded that to carnivorous birds, 
the death of its prey is only known by the cessation of 
motion : like all other birds that swallow their prey whole, 
the hair, if an animal, or the feathers if a bird, are by some 
process in the stomach, rolled into hard, small, round balls, 
and ejected from the mouth with a slight force. The meat 
of the Owl is good and well tasted to hunters. The aquatic 
birds are more numerous, and in great variety : but they 
pass to the southward as the cold weather comes on. They 
arrive in the month of May, and leave us by the middle, or 
latter end of October, as the season may be. There are two 
species of Swan, the largest ^ weighs about twenty four pounds, 
the lesser ^ about fifteen, when fat. They lay from seven to 
nine eggs. When shot, twelve eggs have been counted in 
them ; but nine is the greatest number I have found in a 
nest, and also of the number they rear ; when fat they are 
good eating, but when poor the flesh is hard and dry. They 
are a shy bird, and their nests not often found : they frequent 
the lesser Lakes ; and seldom approach the shores. The 
Natives often shoot them in the night ; for this purpose, fir 
wood, spHt into laths, to burn freely, is made into small 
parcels, one of which is placed in an old kettle, or one made 
of wood, placed on a strong, short, stick, to keep it two, or 

1 Trumpeter Swan, Olor buccinator (Richardson). [E. A. P.] 
* Whistling Swan, Olor columbianus (Ord). [E. A. P.] 


three feet above the Canoe. When it is quite dark, two 
Indians embark, one steers the Canoe quietly, and steadily, 
towards the Swans, (they keep near each other ;) the other is 
in the bow of the Canoe, with his gun, and the torch wood ; 
which is lighted and soon in full blaze, and is kept in this 
state by the man in the bow ; as soon as the Swans perceive 
the fire, they commence, and continue their call of Koke, 
Koke. They appear aware of danger, but are fascinated by 
the fire, they keep calling and swimming half round, and back 
in the same place, gazing on the fire ; until the Canoe is 
within about thirty yards, when the bow man, by the light 
of the fire, levels his gun, and shoots the Swan nearest to him ; 
if he has two guns the other Swan is shot as he rises on his 
flight. Another mode by which the Swan is enticed within 
shot, is, the Indian lies down in some long grass rushes, or 
willows near the edge of the Lake, with a piece of very white 
birch rind in his hand, or fastened to a short stick ; this is 
made to show like a Swan, and the call made ; then drawn 
back ; then again shown ; thus it attracts the Swans who 
gently approach, to within shot ; this requires great patience, 
perhaps three, or four hours. It is more successful with a 
single Swan, than with a pair, or more. The several species 
of Geese I have akeady noticed : but very few breed in this 
region, and those only of the Gray Geese,^ they lay from eleven 
to thirteen Eggs ; which they will defend against the Fox 
and the Mink to no purpose, the Eggs are sure to be eaten and 
perhaps one of the geese. 

There is a great variety of Ducks, some of them lay fifteen 
eggs. The young are reared with great care, in a heavy- 
shower of rain the young are aU under their parents wings ; 
one variety builds in hollow trees, which it enters by a hole 
in the side of the tree ; and is named the Wood Duck.^ Two 

1 Branta canadensis (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 

* The reference is probably to the American Goldeneye, Clangula c. 
americana Bonap. [E. A. P.] 



species of Crane ^ pass the open season, they make their nests 
among quagmire rushes, which cannot be approached ; they 
have about nine young, which are hidden until they are fully 
half grown. The Bittern^ is found among the rushes, reeds, 
and tall grass of the marshes. It does not weigh more than 
three, or four, pounds, and holding it's long neck and bill 
erect it gives a hollow note, as loud almost as an Ox. And 
keeping itself hid, those not acquainted with it, are at a loss to 
know what animal it can be ; it takes it's name from having 
on each breast a narrow stripe about two inches in length, 
of rough, raised, yellow skin, which is very bitter, and must 
be taken off, otherwise, this well tasted bird is too bitter to 
be eaten. Like the Crane, it lives on Roots, frogs and small 
lizards. Of the Plover, there are a few species, they are not 
plenty, the Boys kill them with their arrows. The water is 
the element of the Loon,^ on the land he is unable to walk, 
his legs being placed too far backwards, nor from the ground 
can he raise his flight, and is quite helpless ; but in the water, 
of all birds he is the most completely at home. He swims 
swiftly and dives well, going under water apparently with 
the same ease, as on the surface ; he has the power of placing 
his body at any depth, and when harassed in a small lake, 
places his body under water to be secure from the shot, 
leaving only his neck and head exposed and this he sinks to 
the head ; in any of these positions he remains at pleasure ; 
he prefers acting thus on the defensive, than flying away, for 
being very short winged, he has to go some thirty yards near 
the surface before he can raise his flight, and is so steady on 
the wing, that he is accounted a dead shot : the Loon is 
very destructive among the small fish, yet seldom fat : it 
lays only three eggs, when boiled, the inside appears streaked 

* Brown Crane, Grus canadensis (Linn.) ; and Whooping Crane, Grus 
americana (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 

* Botaurus lentiginosus (Montagu). [E. A. P.] 

* Gavia immer (Briinn.). [E. A. P.] 


black and yellow, and [they] are so ill tasted they cannot be 
eaten, it's flesh is also bad. When on discovery to the north- 
ward, one evening on camping we found a Loons nest ; the 
eggs were taken, but were found not to be eatable : two 
Lads lay down near the nest, in the night the pair of Loons 
came, and missing their eggs, fell upon the Lads, screeching 
and screaming, and beating them with their wings ; the Lads 
thought themselves attacked by enemies, and roared out for 
help ; two of us threw off our blankets and seized our guns, 
the Loons seeing this returned to the Lake, we were at a loss 
what to think or do, the Lads were frightened out of their 
wits ; in a few minutes we heard the wild call of the Loons ; 
the Indian said it was the Loons, in revenge for the loss of 
their eggs ; and giving them his hearty curse of " death be 
to you," told us there was no danger, and the Loons left us 
quiet for the rest of the night. The PeHcan ^ is represented 
as a soHtary bird, it may be so in other countries ; but not in 
this region. They are always in pairs, or in flocks of five to 
twenty. This is the largest fishing bird in the country, it is 
occasionally shot, or knocked on the head for it's feathers and 
pouch ; the color is a dirty white, the wings extend about 
seven and a half feet ; it's height is about thirty to thirty 
four inches, of which the bill, which is straight, measures 
about fourteen inches, it is capacious, and under the bill and 
upper part of the throat is a pouch that will hold a full 
quart of water. This bird when measured from the end of 
the tail to the point of the beak is about five feet in length ; 
it's tail feathers are used for arrows, and the pouch, when 
cleaned and dried, is used to keep tobacco and Bear's weed 
for smoking ; The Pelican is very destructive among small 
fish to a pound in weight. It has a wide throat, and after 
filling it's stomach, also fills it's pouch, which becomes much 
distended, and half putrid, is, fish by fish, emptied into the 

^ White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos Gmel. [E. A. P.] 


throat. Such is it's fishing habits in the morning, and the 
same in the afternoon ; they frequent the Rapids of small 
Streams, and when thus gorged sit close to each other in a 
line. In this state they are unable to fly, and when our 
voyage in canoes leads us among them, before they can rise, 
they have to disgorge the putrid fish in their pouches, the 
smell of which is so very bad, that we hury past as fast as 
possible ; the Black Bears, ^ who frequent the same Rapids, 
never injure them ; these birds are so impure, they are the 
bye word of the Natives and the Traders, There are two 
species of Cormorant,^ both of them very expert in fishing, 
their flesh and Eggs are almost as bad as those of the Loon ; 
There are also several species of the Merganser, or fishing 
Ducks, ^ altho' they live on fish, yet both their flesh and eggs 
are eatable, when no better can be got : The three species 
of Gulls * conclude the list of birds that Hve on fish ; they are 
all good to eat, their eggs are good as those of a Duck, especi- 
ally the largest kind which is the size of a teal duck ; their 
young cannot fly until they are full grown, and as all the 
species are too Hght to dive, become an easy prey to the Eagle, 
the Hawk, and to Man : On some of the Islets in the Lakes, 
they breed in such numbers that the Native Women collect 
as many as their blankets can hold. 

AH the Animals of this Region are known to the civilized 
world, I shall therefore only give those traits of them which 
naturaHsts do not, or have not noticed in their discriptions . 
There are two species of the Mouse, the common,^ and the 

1 Ursus americanus Pallas. [E. A. P.] 

* But one species, Phalacrocorax auritus (Lesson). [E. A. P.] 

* Common Merganser, Mergus americanus Cass. ; Red-breasted Mer- 
ganser, Mergus serrator Linn. ; and Hooded Merganser, Lophodytes cuctil- 
latus (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 

* The three most likely to be referred to are the Herring Gull, Lams 
argentatus Pontoppidan ; Ring-billed Gull, Larus delawarensis Ord ; and 
the Common Tern, Sterna hirundo Linn. [E. A. P.] 

' White-footed Mouse, Peromyscus maniculatus borealis Mearns. 
[E. A. P.] 


field Mouse ^ with a short tail ; they appear to be numerous, 
and build a House where we will, as soon as it is inhabited 
they make their appearance ; but the country is clear of the 
plague of the Norway Rat,^ which, although he comes from 
England, part owner of the cargo, as yet has not travelled 
beyond the Factories at the sea side. The Ermine,^ this active 
little animal is an Ermine only in winter, in summer of a 
light brown color, he is most indefatigable after mice and 
small birds, and in the season, a plunderer of eggs ; wherever 
we build, some of them soon make their burrows, and some- 
times become too familiar. Having in June purchased from 
a Native about three dozen of Gull eggs, I put them in a 
room, up stairs, a plain flight of about eight feet. The Ermine 
soon found them, and having made a meal of one egg, was 
determined to carry the rest to his burrow for his young ; 
I watched to see how he would take the eggs down stairs ; 
holding an egg between his throat and two fore paws, he came 
to the head of the stairs ; there he made a long stop, at a 
loss how to get the egg down without breaking it, his resolu- 
tion was taken, and holding fast to the egg dropped down to 
the next stair on his neck and back ; and thus to the floor, 
and carried it to his nest : he returned and brought two 
more eggs in the same manner ; while he was gone for the 
fourth, I took the three eggs away ; laying down the egg he 
brought, he looked all around for the others, standing on his 
hind legs and chattering, he was evidently in a fighting 
humour ; at length he set off and brought another, these 
two I took away, and he arrived with the sixth egg, which I 
allowed him to keep ; he was too fatigued to go for another. 
The next morning he returned, but the eggs were in a basket 
out of his reach, he knew where they were but could not get 

1 Meadow Mouse, Microtus pennsylvanicus drummondi (Aud. and 
Bach.). [E. A. P.] 

* Epimys norvegicus Erxleben. [E. A. P.] 
3 Mustela cicognani Bonap. [E. A. P.] 


at them, and after chattering awhile, had to look for other 
prey. In winter we take the Ermine in small traps for the 
skin, which is valued to ornament dresses. 

There are two separate species of Squirrel, the common ^ 
and the flying Squirrel,^ the former burrows under the roots 
of large Pines, from which he has several outlets, [so] that 
when the Marten, or the Fox dig for him, he has a safe egress, 
and escapes up the tree with surprising agiHty, where he is 
safe. The flying Squirrel is about one fifth larger, and of 
the same color, it's name arises from a hairy membrane, which 
on each side extends from the fore to the hind leg : and which 
it extends when leaping from tree to tree ; this latter builds 
it's nest in the trees ; they both feed on the cones of the 
Pine, using only those in a dry state ; they are numerous ; 
their elegant forms, agile movements, and chatterings, very 
much reheve the silence of the Pine Forests. The haunts of 
the Marten^ are confined to the extensive forests of Pine, 
especially the thickest parts, they are of the size of a large cat, 
but of a more compact and stronger make ; the color brown, 
the deeper color the more valuable, some few approach to a 
black color ; two he, or three she Martens, in trade are of 
the value of one Beaver. They are always on the hunt of 
mice, squirrels and birds : They are caught in traps, already 
described ; and as their skins are valuable, and their flesh 
good, they are trapped by the Natives and the Men of the 
Factories : the best bait for them is the head of a Grouse 
with the feathers on ; or the head of a hare ; even the leg 
of a hare is preferred to a bait of frozen meat, which he 
seldom takes. Among the Natives the snareing of hares, and 
trapping of Martens are the business of the Women, and 
become their property for trade. The White Men sometimes 
make ranges of Marten Traps for the length of forty or fifty 

1 Spruce Squirrel, Sciurus htidsonicus Erxleben. [E. A. P.] 

* Sciuropterus sabrinus (Shaw). [E. A. P.] 

* Maries americana abieticola (Preble). [E. A. P.] 


miles, at about six to eight traps p' mile : in this case the 
Trapper makes a hut of Pine Branches about every ten miles, 
which length of traps is as much as he can manage in a day ; 
the trapping is most successful in the month of November 
and early part of December : and the months of February 
and March, after which the skin soon becomes out of season. 
At each hut the Trapper ought to leave a stock of fire wood 
sufficient for the next night he passes there, as he frequently 
does not arrive until the daylight is gone, and cutting wood 
in the night is dangerous. An old acquaintance who had a 
long range of traps, had neglected to leave fire wood at the 
hut at the end of the range, arriving late in the evening had 
to cut fire wood for the night, with aU his caution a twig 
caught the axe and made the blow descend on his foot, which 
was cut from the little toe, to near the instep ; he felt the 
blood gushing, but finished cutting the wood required ; 
having put everything in order, he took off his shoe and the 
two blanket socks, tore up a spare shirt, and bound up the 
wound, using for salve a piece of tallow ; he was six days 
journey from the Factory and alone ; the next morning, 
having mended his shoe and socks he got them on, but how 
to march forward was the difficulty ; a hut with firewood at 
the end of every ten miles along the range was some encourage- 
ment ; having tied his blankets and little baggage on the flat 
sled which every Trapper has, with pain he tied his foot to 
the snow shoe, then tied a string to the bar of the snow- 
shoe, the other end in his hand, thus set off alone, to perform 
a winter journey of about one hundred and twenty miles, 
hauling a sled, and with one hand Hfting his wounded foot, 
the Snow Shoe was steady and soft on the snow ; the first 
mile made him stop several times, and shook his resolution ; 
but continuing his foot became less painful and could easily 
be borne ; he had so much of the spirit of the Trapper in him 
that he could not pass a trap in which a Marten was caught 
without taking it out, although it added to the weight he 


was hauling : In the evening he arrived at the first hut, put 
every thing in order, lighted his fire, and sat down, and as he 
told me, [was] more proud of the fortitude of the day, than of 
any day of his life ; he slept well, his foot did not swell ; and 
the next morning, with some pain [he] renewed his journey 
to the second hut ; and thus to the fifth hut. During these 
days he had the trapping path to walk on, which was soft 
and steady ; he had now about sixty miles to go without a 
path ; he had now to hang up the Martens and everything he 
could do without, boil the bark of the Larch Tree which lies 
close to the wood, beat it to a soft poultice and lay it on the 
woimd ; his sled was now light and his hand regular in lifting 
his foot and snow shoe ; in five days he arrived at the Factory 
having suffered much each evening in getting firewood : 
during all this time of travelling his foot was not in the least 
swelled ; when at the Factory he thought he would be at 
his ease, but this was not the case, his foot became swollen, 
with considerable pain, and for a month he had to make use 
of a crutch. 

I have often tried to tame the Marten, but could never 
trust him beyond his chain : to one which I kept some time, 
I brought a small hawk slightly wounded, and placed it near 
him, he seemed wiUing to get away ; and did not like it ; 
two days after I winged a middle sized owl, and brought it 
to him, he appeared afraid of it, and would willingly have 
run away, but did not dare to cease watching it. Shortly 
after I found a Hare in one of the snares just taken. I brought 
it alive to near the Marten, he became much agitated, the 
skin of his head distorted to a ferocious aspect, he chattered, 
sprung to the Hare, as if with mortal hatred ; this appeared 
to me strangely unaccountable, aU this state of excitement 
against a weak animal it's common prey. Walking quickly 
through the Forest to visit the snares and traps, I have 
several times been amused with the Marten trying to steal 
the Hare, suspended by a snare from a pole ; the Marten is 


very active, but the soft snow does not allow him to spring 
more than his own height above the surface ; the Hare is 
suspended full five feet above the surface ; determined to 
get the Hare, he finds the pole to which the Hare is hanging, 
and running along the pole, when near the small end, his 
weight over balances the other end, and the Marten is pre- 
cipitated into the snow with the hare, before he recovers, 
the pole has risen with the Hare out of his reach ; he would 
stand on his hind feet, chatter at the hare with vexation ; 
return to the Pole, to try to get the hare, to be again plunged 
in the snow ; how long he would have continued, I do not 
know, the cold did not allow me to remain long ; seeing me, 
he ran away. 

The Lynx^ may be regarded as a very large cat, readily 
climbs trees, and preys on Mice, Hares, Squirrels and Birds, 
it's habits are those of a Cat : it is a shy animal ; it's skin 
is not much worth, the skin being thin and weak ; the Natives 
take this animal in a trap, in which is a wisp of grass roUed 
round some Castorum and the oil stones of the Beaver,^ against 
this he rubs his head, displaces the stick which suspends the 
trap, and he is caught ; by the same means he is caught in a 
snare ; while rubbing his head he purrs like a cat. The flesh 
is white and good, and makes a good roast. 

His fine large lustrous eyes have been noticed by naturalists, 
and other writers, they are certainly beautiful, but better 
adapted to the twilight, than the glare of the sunshine. I 
am inclined to think that the habits of the Fox are better 
known in Europe than to us, for in populous countries it 
requires all his wits and wiles to preserve his life. The 
Wolverene,^ is an animal unknown to other parts of the world, 
and we would willingly dispense with his being round here. 
It is a strong, well made, powerful animal; his legs short, 

^ Lynx canadensis Kerr. [E. A. P.] 

* Castor canadensis Kuhl, [E. A. P.] 

* Gulo luscus (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 


armed with long sharp claws, he climbs trees with ease and 
nothing is safe that he can get at ; by nature a plunderer, 
and mischievous, he is the plague of the country. 

A party of six men were sent to square timber for the 
Factory, and as usual left their heavy axes where they were 
working, when they went to the tent for the night. One 
morning the six axes were not to be found, and as they knew 
there was no person within many miles of them they were 
utterly at a loss what to think or do. They were all from 
the very north of Scotland, and staunch believers in ghosts, 
fairies and such like folk, except one ; at length one of them 
who thought himself wiser than the rest, addressed his un- 
believing companion, " Now Jamie, you infidel, this comes of 
your laughing at ghosts and fairies, I told you that they 
would make us suffer for it, here now all our axes are gone 
and if a ghost has not taken them, what has .'' " Jamie was 
sadly puzzled what to say, for the axes were gone ; fortu- 
nately the Indian lad who was tenting with them, to supply 
them with grouse came to them ; they told him all their 
axes were taken away, upon looking about he perceived the 
footmarks of a Wolverene, and told them who the thief was, 
which they could not believe until tracking the Wolverene, 
he found one of the axes hid under the snow : in like manner 
three more were found, the others were carried to some 
distance and took two hours to find them, they were aU 
hidden separately, and to secure their axes they had to 
shoulder them every evening to their tent. During the 
winter hunt, the feathers of the birds are the property of the 
hunters ; and those of the white Grouse sell for six pence a 
pound to the Officer's of the ship, we gave our share to Robert 
Tennant, whom we called Old Scot. He had collected the 
feathers of about 300 grouse in a canvas bag, and to take it 
to the Factory, tied it on the Dog's sled, but some snow 
having fallen in the night, the hauUng was heavy ; and after 
going a short distance the bag of feathers had to be left, 


which was suspended to the branch of a tree ; On our return 
we were surprized to see feathers on the snow, on coming to 
the tree on which we had hung the bag we found a wolverene 
had cut it down, torn the bag to pieces, and scattered the 
feathers so as hardly to leave two together. He was too 
knowing for a trap but [was] killed by a set Gun. In trapping 
of Martens, ranges of traps sometimes extend forty miles, or 
more. An old trapper always begins with a Wolverene trap, 
and at the end of every twenty traps makes one for the 
Wolverene, this is a work of some labor, as the trap must be 
strongly made and well loaded, for this strong animal, his 
weight is about that of an engHsh Mastiff, but more firmly 
made ; his skin is thick, the hair coarse, of a dark brown color, 
value about ten shilHngs, but to encourage the natives to 
kill it, [it] is valued at two beavers, being four times it's real 

Of the three species of Wolf,^ only one is found in this 
stony region that I have described, and this species appears 
pecuUar to this region ; it is the largest of them, and by way 
of convenience is called the Wood, or Forest Wolf, as it is 
not found elsewhere ; it's form and color [is] much the same 
as the others, of a dark grey, the hair, though not coarse, 
cannot be called soft and fine, it is in plenty, and with the 
skin makes warm clothing. It is a solitary animal. Two are 
seldom seen together except when in chase of some animal 
of the Deer species. Fortunately they are not numerous, 
they are very rarely caught in a trap, but redily take the 
bait of a set Gun, and [are] killed. The cased skin of one of 
these Wolves, came with ease over a man of six feet, two 
inches in height dressed in his winter clothing, and was ten 
inches above his head, yet powerful and active as he is, he 
is not known to attack mankind, except in a rare case of some- 
thing Hke canine madness, and his bite does not produce 
hydrophobia. At least it never has been so among the 

^ Cants occidentalis Richardson. [E. A. P.] 


Natives, and the dogs bitten by him, only suffer the pain of 
the bite. Foxes have sometimes this canine madness or some- 
thing like it, but hydrophobia is wholly unknown. Two of 
these Wolves are a full match of either the Moose,^ or Rein 
Deer,^ the only two species found in this region. When they 
start one of these Deer, they are left far behind, but the 
Deer must stop to feed, they then come up to, and again 
start the Deer, and thus continue until the animal, harrassed 
for want of food and rest becomes weak and turns to bay in 
this state ready to defend itself with it's powerful feet. The 
wolves cautiously approach, one going close in front to 
threaten an attack, yet keeping out of the reach of it's fore 
feet. The other wolf goes behind, keeping a Httle on one side 
to be out of the direct stroke of the hind feet ; and watching, 
gives a sharp bite to cut the back sinew of one of the hind 
legs, this brings on a smart stroke of the hind legs of the 
Deer, but the wolf is on one side, and repeats his bites until 
the back sinew is cut, the Deer can now no longer defend 
itself, the back sinew of the other hind leg is soon cut, the 
Deer falls down and becomes the easy prey of the Wolves ; 
the tongue and the bowels are the first to be devoured. From 
the teeth of the old Wolves being sharp pointed, it does not 
appear they knaw the bones, but only clean them of the 
flesh, and in this state we find the bones. The Deer in 
summer sometimes takes to the water, but this only prolongs 
his life for a few hours. They are very destructive to the 
young deer ; and their loud bowlings in the night make the 
Deer start from their beds and run to a greater distance. 
When wounded, he will defend himself, but tries to get away, 
and dies as hard as he lived. There is something in the erect 
form of man, while he shows no fear, that awes every animal. 
The animals described in this Stony Region are few in pro- 
portion to the extent of country, the Natives with all their 

> A Ices americanus (Clinton). [E. A. P.] 

* Rangifer sylvestris (Richardson). [E. A. P.] 


address can only collect furrs sufficient to purchase the 
necessaries of life ; and part of their clothing is of leather in 
summer, very disagreeable in rainy weather, and the avidity 
with which the furr bearing animals is sought, almost 
threatens their extinction ; the birds of passage may be as 
numerous as ever, comparatively only a very few can be 
killed as they pass, and the Natives acknowledge, that with all 
their endeavours they can barely subsist by the chase, even 
when making use of all the animals they catch for food. 



Nahathaway Language — A-ppearance — Dress — Manners — 
Traditions — Immortality of the Soul — Keeche Keeche 
Manito — Manitos — Ghosts — Pah kok — Sun and Moon — 
Names of Moons of each month — Earth — Forest — Manitos — 
Metchee Manito — Dog Feasts — Weesarkejauk — The story 
of the Deluge — Rainbow — The conjurer Ise-pesawan dances 
— Poowaggan — Resentful dispositions — Early Marriages — 
Duties of Wife — Duties of Husband — Superstitions of hunter 
— Marriages — Polygamy — Children — Metis — Ingenuity of 
Indians — Wishes — Sleds — Dogs — Moving of Indians — 
Arrangement of Tents. 

HAVING passed six years ^ in different parts of this 
Region, exploring and surveying it, I may be 
allowed to know something of the natives, as well 
as the productions of the country. It's inhabitants are two 
distinct races of Indians ; North of the latitude of fifty six 
degrees, the country is occupied by a people who call them- 
selves " Dinnie," by the Hudson Bay Traders " Northern 
Indians " and by their southern neighbours " Cheepawyans " 
whom I shall notice hereafter. Southward of the above 
latitude the country is in the possession of the Nahathaway 

* The six years so spent were as follows, the first four being with the 

Hudson's Bay Company, and the last two with the North-West Company : 

1792-93, at Sipiwesk lake; 1794-95, at Reed lake; 1795-96, at Duck 

Portage; 1 796-97, at Reindeer lake ; 1804-05, at Musquawegan ; 1805-06, 

at Reed lake. 



Indians ^ their native name (Note. These people by the French 
Canadians, who are all without the least education, in their 
jargon call them " Krees " a name which none of the Indians 
can pronounce ; this name appears to be taken from 
" Keethisteno " so called by one of their tribes and which 
the french pronounce " Kristeno," and by contraction Krees 
(R, rough, cannot be pronounced by any Native) these 
people are separated into many tribes or extended families, 
under different names, but all speaking dialects of the same 
language, which extends over this stony region, and along 
the Atlantic coasts southward to the Delaware River in the 
United States, (the language of the Delaware Indians being 
a dialect of the parent Nahathaway) and by the Saskatchewan 
River westward, to the Rocky Mountains. The Nathaway, 
as it is spoken by the southern tribes is softened and made 
more sonorous, the frequent th of the parent tongue is changed 
to the letter y as Neether (me) into Neeyer, Keether (thou) 
into Keeyer, Weether (him) into Weeyer, and as it proceeds 
southward [it] becomes almost a different language. It is 
easy of pronunciation, and is readily acquired by the white 
people for the purposes of trade, and common conversation. 

The appearance of these people depends much on the 
climate and ease of subsistence. Around Hudson's Bay and 
near the sea coasts, where the climate is very severe, and 

^ Nahathaway is one of several variants of the name applied by the 
Cree Indians to themselves, and is that form of the name which is commonly 
used by the Cree who live in the country around Isle k la Crosse and the 
upper waters of the Churchill river. Among the Cree of the Saskatchewan 
river and the Great Plains the th sound is eliminated and the word is pro- 
nounced Nihlaway. Kristeno, the name by which this great tribe was 
usually known to the early traders, and of which the word Cree is a cor- 
ruption, was the name which the Chippewa applied to them, and as the 
white people came in contact with, and learned to speak the language of, 
the Chippewa first, they naturally adopted the Chippewa name. The 
Cree are one of the most important tribes of the Algonquin family. 
They are naturally inhabitants of the forest. Their range was from the 
Rocky Mountains eastward north of the Great Plains, and thence north 
of Lake Winnipeg to the southern shore of Hudson Bay. 


game scarce, they are seldom above the middle size, of spare 
make, the features round, or slightly oval, hair black, strong 
and lank ; eyes black and of full size, cheek bones rather 
high, mouth and teeth good, the chin round ; the counte- 
nance grave yet with a tendency to cheerful, the mild 
countenances of the women make many, while young, appear 
lovely ; but like the labouring classes the softness of youth 
soon passes away. In the interior where the cHmate is not 
so severe, and hunting more successful, the Men attain to 
the stature of six feet ; well proportioned, the face more 
oval, and the features good, giving them a manly appearance ; 
the complexion is of a light olive, and their colour much the 
same as a native of the south of Spain ; the skin soft and 
smooth. They bear cold and exposure to the weather better 
than we do and the natural heat of their bodies is greater 
than ours, probably from Hving wholly on animal food. They 
can bear great fatigue but not hard labor, they would rather 
walk six hours over rough ground than work one hour with 
the pick axe and spade, and the labor they perform, is mostly 
in an erect posture as working with the ice chissel piercing 
holes through the ice or through a beaver house, and naturally 
they are not industrious ; they do not work from choice, 
but necessity ; yet the industrious of both sexes are praised 
and admired ; the civiHzed man has many things to tempt 
him to an active Ufe, the Indian has none, and is happy sitting 
still, and smoking his pipe. 

The dress of the Men is simply of one or two loose coats 
of coarse broad cloth, or molton, a piece of the same sewed 
to form a rude kind of stockings to half way up the thigh, a 
blanket by way of a cloak ; the shoes are of weU dressed 
Moose, or Rein Deer skin, and from it's pliancy enables them 
to run with safety, they have no covering for the head in 
summer, except the skin of the spotted northern Diver ; but 
in winter, they wrap a piece of Otter, or Beaver skin with the 
furr on, round their heads, still leaving the crown of the 


head bare, from which they suffer no inconvenience. The 
dress of the women is of !•$■ yards of broad cloth sewed Hke 
a sack, open at both ends, one end is tied over the shoulders, 
the middle belted round the waist, the lower part like a petti- 
coat, covers to the ankles, and gives them a decent appearance. 
The sleeves covers the arms and shoulders, and are separate 
from the body dress. The rest is much the same as the men. 
For a head dress they have a foot of broad cloth sewed at one 
end, ornamented with beads and gartering, this end is on the 
head, the loose parts are over the shoulders, and is well adapted 
to defend the head and neck from the cold and snow. The 
women seldom disfigure their faces with paint, and are not 
over fond of ornaments. Most of the men are tattoed, on 
some part of their bodies, arms &c. Some of the Women 
have a small circle on each cheek. 

The natives in their manners are mild and decent, treat 
each other with kindness and respect, and very rarely interrupt 
each other in conversation ; after a long separation the 
nearest relations meet each other with the same seeming 
indifference, as if they had constantly lived in the same tent, 
but they have not the less affection for each other, for they 
hold aU show of joy, or sorrow to be unmanly ; on the death 
of a relation, or friend, the women accompany their tears for 
the dead with piercing shrieks, but the men sorrow in silence, 
and when the sad pang of recollection becomes too strong to 
be borne, retire into the forest to give free vent to their grief. 
Those acts that pass between man and man for generous 
charity and kind compassion in civilized society, are no more 
than what is every day practised by these Savages ; as acts 
of common duty ; is any one unsuccessful in the chase, has 
he lost his Httle all by some accident, he is sure to be relieved 
by the others to the utmost of their power, in sickness they 
carefully attend each other to the latest breath decently . . . 
the dead . . } 

^ The bottom of the page of manuscript has here been torn off. 



Of all the several distinct Tribes of Natives on the east 
side of the mountains, the Nahathaway Indians appear to 
deserve the most consideration ; under different names the 
great families of this race occupy a great extent of country, 
and however separated and unknown to each other, they have 
the same opinions on rehgion, on morals, and their customs 
and manners differ very Httle. They are the only Natives 
that have some remains of ancient times from tradition. In 
the following account I have carefully avoided as their national 
opinions all they have learned from white men, and my 
knowledge was collected from old men, whom with my own 
age extend backwards to upwards of one hundred years ago, 
and I must remark, that what [ever] other people may write 
as the creed of these natives, I have always found it very 
difficult to learn their real opinion on what may be termed 
religious subjects. Asking them questions on this head, is to 
no purpose, they will give the answer best adapted to avoid 
other questions, and please the enquirer. My knowledge has 
been gained when living and travelling with them and in 
times of distress and danger in their prayers to invisible 
powers, and their view of a future state of themselves and 
others, and hke most of mankind, those in youth and in the 
prime of hfe think only of the present but decHning man- 
hood, and escapes from danger turn their thoughts on futurity. 
After a weary day's march we sat by a log fire, the bright 
Moon, with thousands of sparkhng stars passing before us, we 
could not help enquiring who lived in those bright mansions ; 
for I frequently conversed with them as one of themselves ; 
the brilliancy of the planets always attracted their attention, 
and when their nature was explained to them, they concluded 
them to be the abodes of the spirits of those who had led a 
good life. 

A Missionary has never been among them, and my know- 
ledge of their language has not enabled me to do more than 
teach the unity of God, and a future state of rewards and 


punishments ; hell fire they do not believe, for they do not 
think it possible that any thing can resist the continued 
action of fire : It is doubtful if their language in its present 
simple state can clearly express the doctrines of Christianity 
in their full force. They believe in the self existence of the 
Keeche Keeche Manito (The Great, Great Spirit) they 
appear to derive their belief from tradition, and [believe] that 
the visible world, with all it's inhabitants must have been 
made by some powerful being : but have not the same idea 
of his constant omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence 
that we have, but [think] that he is so when he pleases, he is 
the master of h'fe, and all things are at his disposal ; he is 
always kind to the human race, and hates to see the blood 
of mankind on the ground, and sends heavy rain to wash it 
away. He leaves the human race to their own conduct, but 
has placed all other living creatures under the care of Manitos 
(or inferior Angels) all of whom are responsible to Him ; but 
all this beHef is obscure and confused, especially on the 
Manitos, the guardians and guides of every genus of Birds 
and Beasts ; each Manito has a separate command and care, 
as one has the Bison, another the Deer ; and thus the whole 
animal creation is divided amongst them. On this account 
the Indians, as much as possible, neither say, nor do anything 
to offend them, and the rehgious hunter, at the death of 
each animal, says, or does, something, as thanks to the Manito 
of the species for being permitted to kill it. At the death 
of a Moose Deer, the hunter in a low voice, cries " wut, wut, 
wut " ; cuts a narrow stripe of skin from off the throat, and 
hangs it up to the Manito. The bones of the head of a Bear 
are thrown into the water, and thus of other animals ; if 
this acknowledgment was not made the Manito would drive 
away the animals from the hunter, although the Indians 
often doubt their power or existence yet like other invisible 
beings they are more feared than loved. They believe in 
ghosts but as very rarely seen, and those only of wicked men, 


or women ; when this belief takes place, their opinion is, that 
the spirit of the wicked person being in a miserable state 
comes back to the body and round where he used to hunt ; 
to get rid of such a hateful visitor, they burn the body to 
ashes and the ghost then no longer haunts them. The dark 
Pine Forests have spirits, but there is only one of them which 
they dread, it is the Pah kok, a tall hateful spirit, he frequents 
the depths of the Forest ; his howHngs are heard in the 
storm, he delights to add to its terrors, it is a misfortune to 
hear him, something ill wiU happen to the person, but when 
he approaches a Tent and howls, he announces the death of 
one of the inmates ; of all beings he is the most hateful and 
the most dreaded. The Sun and Moon are accounted 
Divinities and though they do not worship them, [they] 
always speak of them with great reverence. They appear to 
think [of] the Stars only as a great number of luminous points 
perhaps also divinities, and mention them with respect ; they 
have names for the brightest stars, as Serius, Orion and 
others, and by them learn the change of the seasons, as the 
rising of Orion for winter, and the setting of the Pleiades for 
summer. The Earth is also a divinity, and is aHve, but 
[they] cannot define what kind of life it is, but say, if it was 
not aHve it could not give and continue life to other things 
and to animated creatures. 

The Forests, the ledges and hills of Rock, the Lakes and 
Rivers have all something of the Manito about them, especi- 
ally the Falls in the Rivers, and those to which the fish come 
to spawn. The Indians when the season is over, frequently 
place their spears at the Manito stone at the Fall, as an 
offering to the Spirit of the Fall, for the fish they have caught. 
These stones are rare, and sought after by the natives to 
place at the edge of a water fall ; they are of the shape of a 
Cobler's lap stone, but much larger, and pohshed by the wash 
of the water. The " Metchee Manito," or Evil Spirit, they 
believe to be evil, delighting in making men miserable, and 


bringing misfortune and sickness on them, and if he had the 
power would wholly destroy them ; he is not the tempter, 
his whole power is for mischief to, and harrassing of, them, to 
avert all which they use many ceremonies, and other sacri- 
fices, which consists of such things as they can spare, and 
sometimes a dog is painted and killed ; whatever is given to 
him is laid on the ground, frequently at the foot of a pine 
tree. They believe in the immortaHty of the soul, and that 
death is only a change of existence which takes place directly 
after death. The good find themselves in a happy country, 
where they rejoin their friends and relations, the Sun is always 
bright, and the animals plenty ; and most of them carry this 
beHef so far, that they beheve whatever creatures the great 
Spirit has made must continue to exist somewhere, and under 
some form ; But this fine belief is dark and uncertain ; when 
danger was certain, and it was doubtful if we saw the day, 
or if we saw it, whether we should live through it, and a future 
state appeared close to them, their minds wavered, they 
wished to beheve what they felt to be uncertain, all that I 
could do was to show the immortality of the soul, as necessary 
to the reward of the good and punishment of the wicked but 
all this was the talk of man with man. It wanted the sure 
and sacred promise of the Heavenly Redeemer of mankind, 
who brought life and immortality to light. 

There is an important being, with whom the Natives 
appear better acquainted with than the other, whom they 
call " Weesarkejauk " (the Flatterer) he is the hero of all 
their stories always promising them* some good, or inciting 
them to some pleasure, and always deceiving them. They 
have some tradition of the Deluge, as may be seen from the 
following account related by the old men. After the Great 
Spirit made mankind, and all the animals, he told Weesarke- 
jauk to take care of them and teach them how to Hve, and not 
to eat of bad roots ; that would hurt and kill them ; but he 
did not mind the Great Spirit ; became careless and incited 


them to pleasure, mankind and the animals all did as they 
pleased, quarelled and shed much blood, with which the 
Great Spirit was displeased ; he threatened Weesarkejauk 
that if he did not keep the ground clean he would take every- 
thing from him and make him miserable but he did not 
believe the Great Spirit and in a short time became more 
careless ; and the quarrels of Men, and the animals made 
the ground red with blood, and so far from taking care of 
them he incited them to do and Hve badly ; this made the 
Great Spirit very angry and he told Weesarkejauk that he 
would take every thing from him, and wash the ground 
clean ; but still he did not believe ; until the Rivers and 
Lakes rose very high and over flowed the ground for it was 
always raining ; and the Keeche Gahme (the Sea) came on 
the land, and every man and animal were drowned, except 
one Otter, one Beaver and one Musk Rat. Weesarkejauk 
tried to stop the sea, but it was too strong for him, and he 
sat on the water crying for his loss, the Otter, the Beaver 
and the Musk Rat rested their heads on one of his thighs. 

^\^len the rain ceased and the sea went away, he took 
courage, but did not dare to speak to the Great Spirit. After 
musing a long time upon his sad condition he thought if he 
could get a bit of the old ground he could make a httle island 
of it, for he has the power of extending, but not creating any- 
thing ; and as he had not the power of diving under the 
water, and did not know the depth to the old ground he was 
at a loss what to do. Some say the Great Spirit took pity 
on him, and gave him the power to renovate everything, 
provided he made use of the old materials, all of which lay 
buried under the water to an unknown depth. In this sad 
state, as he sat floating on the water he told the three animals 
that they must starve unless he could get a bit of the old 
ground from under the water of which he would make a fine 
Island for them, then addressing himself to the Otter, and 
praising him for his courage, strength and activity and pro- 


mising him plenty of fish to eat, he persuaded the Otter to 
dive, and bring up a bit of earth ; the Otter came up without 
having reached the ground : hy praises, he got the Otter to 
make two more attempts, but without success, and [he] was so 
much exhausted he could do no more. Weesarkejauk called 
him a coward of a weak heart, and [said] that the Beaver 
would put him to shame : then, speaking to the Beaver, praised 
his strength and wisdom and promised to make him a good 
house for winter, and telling him to dive straight down, the 
Beaver made two attempts without success, and came up so 
tired that Weesarkejauk had to let him repose a long time, 
then promising him a wife if he brought up a bit of earth, 
told him to try a third time ; to obtain a wife, he boldly 
went down and staid so long, that he came up almost lifeless. 
Weesarkejauk was now very sad, for what the active Otter 
and strong Beaver could not do, he had little hopes the Musk 
Rat could do ; but this was his only resource : He now praised 
the musk rat and promised him plenty of roots to eat, with 
rushes and earth to make himself a house ; the Otter and the 
Beaver he said were fools, and lost themselves, and he would 
find the ground, if he went straight down. Thus encouraged 
he dived, and came up, but brought nothing ; after reposing, 
he went down a second time, and staid a long time, on coming 
up Weesarkejauk examined his fore paws and found they had 
the smell of earth, and showing this to the Musk Rat, promised 
to make him a Wife, who should give him a great many 
children, and become more numerous than any other animal, 
and teUing him to have a strong heart ; and go direct down, 
the Musk Rat went down the third time and staid so long 
that Weesarkejauk feared he was drowned. At length seeing 
some bubbles come up, he put down his long arm and brought 
up the Musk Rat, almost dead, but to his great joy with a 
piece of earth between his fore paws and his breast, this he 
seized, and in a short time extended it to a Httle island, on 
which they all reposed. Some say Weesarkejauk procured a 


bit of wood, from which he made the Trees, and from bones, 
he made the animals ; but the greater number deny this, 
and say, the Great Spirit made the rivers take the water to 
the Keeche gahma of bad water (the salt sea) and then 
renovated Mankind, the Animals, and the Trees ; in proof 
of which, the Great Spirit deprived him of all authority over 
Mankind and the animals, and he has since had only the 
power to flatter and deceive. It has been aheady noticed 
that this visionary being is the hero of many stories, which 
the women relate to amuse away the evenings. They are all 
founded upon the tricks he plays upon, and the mischief he 
leads the animals into, by flattering and deceiving them, 
especially the Wolf and the Fox. But the recital of the best 
of these stories would be tameness itself to the splendid 
Language and gorgeous scenery of the tales of the oriental 

The Nahathaway Indians have also another tradition 
relative to the Deluge to which no fable is attached. In the 
latter end of May 1806, at the Rocky Mountain House,^ 
(where I passed the summer) the Rain continued the very 
unusual space of full three weeks, the Brooks and the River 
became swollen, and could not be forded, each stream became 
a torrent, and [there was] much water on the ground : A 
band of these Indians were at the house, waiting [for] the 
Rain to cease and the streams to lower, before they could 
proceed to hunting ; all was anxiety, they smoked and made 
speaches to the Great Spirit for the Rain to cease, and at 
length became alarmed at the quantity of water on the 

* The Rocky Mountain House here referred to was situated on the 
north bank of the North Saskatchewan river, in latitude 52° 21' 30" N., 
longitude 114° 57' W., a mile and a quarter above the mouth of Clear- 
water river, on a beautiful level prairie in a wide bend of the river. It 
was built by the North-Westers in the autumn of 1799 ; and it was 
Thompson's home during the winters of 1800-01, 1801-02, 1806-07. The 
trading post which the Hudson's Bay Company afterwards built near it 
was called Acton House. 


























ground ; at length the rain ceased, I was standing at the 
door watching the breaking up of the clouds, when of a sudden 
the Indians gave a loud shout, and called out " Oh, there is 
the mark of life, we shall yet Hve." On looking to the east- 
ward there was one of the widest and most splendid Rainbows 
I ever beheld ; and joy was now in every face. The name 
of the Rainbow is Peeshim Cappeah (Sun Hnes). I had now 
been twenty two years among them, and never before heard 
the name of the Mark of Life given to the rainbow (Peemah 
tisoo nan oo Chegun) nor have I ever heard it since ; upon 
enquiring of the old Men why they kept this name secret 
from me, they gave me the usual reply, You white men always 
laugh and treat with contempt what we have heard and 
learned from our fathers, and why should we expose our- 
selves to be laughed at ; I replied I have never done so, our 
books also call the Rainbow the mark of life ; what the white 
sometimes despise you for, is your one day, making prayers 
to the Good Spirit for all you want ; and another shutting 
yourselves up, making speeches with ceremonies and offer- 
ings to the Evil Spirit ; it is for the worship of the Evil Spirit 
that we despise you, you fear him because he is wicked, and 
the more you worship him, the more power he will have over 
you ; worship the Good Spirit only and the bad spirit will 
have no power over you. Ah, said they ; he is strong, we 
fear for ourselves, our wives and our children. Christianity 
alone can eradicate these sad superstitions, and who will 
teach them. Where the Natives are in villages, or even 
where they occasionally assemble together for two, or three 
months ; a Missionary may do some good, but the Natives 
who in a hard country live by hunting, scattered by three, or 
four famihes over a wide extent of forest, are beyond the labors 
of a Missionary ; yet the influence of the white people have 
done much to lessen the worship and offerings to the Evil 
Spirit. From the french Canadians they cannot add to their 
moraHty, and the dreadful oaths and curses they make use of. 


shocks an Indian. The Indian, altho' naturally grave is fond 
of cheerful amusements, and listening to stories, especially of 
a wonderful cast ; and [is] fond of news, which he listens to 
with attention, and his common discourse is easy and cheerful. 
Like the rest of mankind, he is anxious to know something 
of futurity, and [where] he shall take up his wintering ground. 
For to acquire this important knowledge, they have re- 
course to Dreams and other superstitions ; and a few of their 
best conjurers sometimes take a bold method of imposing 
upon themselves and others. One of my best acquaintances, 
named " Isepesawan," was the most relied on by the Natives, 
to inquire into futurity by conjuring ; he was a good hunter, 
fluent in speech, had a fine manly voice ; and very early 
every morning took his rattle, and beating time with it, made 
a fluent speech of about twenty minutes to the Great Spirit 
and the Spirits of the forests, for health to all of them and 
success in hunting, and to give to his Poowoggin where to 
find the Deer, and to be always kind to them, and to give 
them straight Dreams, that they may Hve straight. The 
time chosen was a fine afternoon, in the open season ; 
" Isepesawan " was the actor. After taking the sweating 
bath ; he had four long slender poles brought of about sixteen 
feet in length ; these were fixed in the ground to form a 
square of full three feet : At five feet above the ground four 
cross pieces were tied firmly ; and about fuU three feet above 
these, other four pieces were strongly tied across the upright 
poles ; all this, at the bottom and top, with the sides were 
closely covered with the dressed leather skins of Deer ; leaving 
one side loose for a door. This being done, fine sinew Hne 
was brought ; with this, the thumb was tied to the fore finger 
in two places, the fingers to each other in the same manner ; 
both hands being then tied they were brought together palm 
to palm and tied together at the wrist ; then the arms tied 
close above the elbows. The Legs were tied together close 
above the ancles, and above the knees ; sometimes the toes 


are tied together in the same manner as the hands ; a few 
yards of leather Hne is tied round his body and arms ; a strong 
line is passed under the knees, and round the back of the neck, 
which draws the knees to a sitting posture. A large Moose 
leather skin, or a Bison Robe, is wrapped around him, and 
several yards of leather line bind the Robe or leather skin 
close around him ; in this helpless state two men Hft and 
place him in the conjuring box in a sitting posture, with his 
rattle on his right side All is now suspense, the Men, 
Women, and Children keep strict silence ; In about fifteen 
or twenty minutes ; the whole of the cords, wrapped to- 
gether are thrown out, and instantly the Rattle and the Song 
are heard, the conjuring box violently shaken, as if the con- 
jurer was actually possessed ; sometimes the Song ceases, and 
a speech is heard of ambiguous predictions of what is to 
happen. In half an hours time, he appears exhausted, leaves 
the leather box and retires to his tent, the perspiration 
running down him, smokes his pipe, and goes to sleep. 

The above is acted on a piece of clear ground ; I some- 
times thought there must be some collusion, and the apparent 
fast knots, were really slip knots ; but the more I became 
convinced the whole was a neat piece of jugglery. On one 
of these occasions, five Scotchmen were with me on some 
business we had with the Natives ; we found the above Indian 
preparing his conjuring box : of course our business could 
not be done till this was over. When my men perceived the 
conjurer about being tied, they said, if they had the tying of 
him, he would never get loose, this I told to the Indians, 
who readily agreed the Scotchmen should tie him : which 
they did in the usual way, and placed him in the conjuring 
box ; quite sure he could not get loose : In about fifteen 
minutes, to their utter astonishment, all the cords were 
thrown out in a bundle, the Rattle, and the Song [was heard] 
in full force, and the conjuring box shaken, as if going to 
pieces ; my men were at a loss what to think, or say. the 



Natives smiled at their incredulity ; at length they consoled 
themselves by saying, the Devil himself had untied him, and 
set him loose. 

I found many of the Men, especially those who had been 
much in company with white men, to be all half infidels, 
but the Women kept them in order ; for they fear the 
Manito's ; All their dances have a religious tendency, they 
are not, as with us, dances of mere pleasure, of the joyous 
countenance : they are grave, each dancer considers it is a 
religious rite for some purpose ; their motions are slow and 
graceful ; yet I have sometimes seen occasional dances of a 
gay character ; I was at their Tents on business, when the 
Women came and told me they wanted Beads and Ribbons, 
to which I replied I wanted Marten Skins ; early the next 
morning, five young women set off to make Marten Traps ; 
and did not return until the evening. They were rallyed by 
their husbands and brothers ; who proposed they should 
dance to the Manito of the Martens, to this they wiUingly 
consented, it was a fine, calm, moonhght night, the young 
men came with the Rattle and Tambour, about nine women 
formed the dance, to which they sung with their fine voices, 
and lively they danced hand in hand in a half circle for a 
long hour ; it is now many years ago, yet I remember this 
gay hour. 

Every man believes or wishes to believe that he has a 
familiar being who takes care of him, and warns him of danger, 
and other matters which otherwise he could not know ; this 
imaginary being he calls his Poowoggan ; upon conversing 
with them on the Being on whom they relied ; it appeared 
to me to be no other than the powers of his own mind when 
somewhat excited by danger or difficulty, especially as they 
suppose their dreams to be caused by him, " Ne poo war tin " 
(I have dreamed) ; too often a troubled dream from a heavy 
supper ; but at times they know how to dream for their own 
interest or convenience ; and when one of them told me he 


had been dreaming it was for what he wished to have, or to 
do, for some favor, or as some excuse for not performing his 
promises, for so far as their interests are concerned they do 
not want poHcy. 

When injured they are resentful, but not more than the 
lower classes of europeans. They frequently pass over injuries, 
and are always appeased with a present, unless blood has been 
shed, in this case however they may seem to forgive, they 
defer revenge to a more convenient opportunity ; courage is 
not accounted an essential to the men, any more than chastity 
to the women, though both are sometimes found in a high 
degree. The greatest praise that one Indian can give to 
another, is, that he is a man of steady humane disposition, 
and a fortunate hunter, and the praise of the women is to be 
active and good humoured ; their marriages are without 
noise or ceremony. Nothing is requisite but the consent of 
the parties, and Parents : the riches of a man consists solely 
in his ability as a Hunter, and the portion of the woman is 
good health, and a wiUingness to reheve her husband from 
all domestic duties. Although the young men appear not to 
be passionate lovers, they seldom fail of being good husbands, 
and when contrariety of disposition prevails, so that they 
cannot Hve peaceably together, they separate with as little 
ceremony as they came together, and both parties are free to 
attach themselves to whom they will, without any stain on 
their characters ; but if they have Hved so long together so 
as to have children, one, or both, are severely blamed. Poly- 
gamy is allowed, and each may have as many wives as he can 
maintain, but few indulge themselves in this liberty, yet 
some have even three ; this is seldom a matter of choice, it is 
frequently from the death of a friend who has left his wife, 
sister, or daughter to him, for every woman must have a 
husband. The children are brought up with great care and 
tenderness. They are very seldom corrected, the constant 
company and admonition of the old people is their only 


education, whom they soon learn to imitate in gravity as far 
as youth will permit ; they very early and readily betake 
themselves to fishing and hunting, from both men and women 
impressing on their minds, that the man truly miserable is 
he, who is dependent on another for his subsistence. They 
have no genius for mechanics, their domestic utensils are all 
rude, their snow shoes and canoes show ingenuity which 
necessity has forced on them, the state of every thing with 
them rises no higher than absolute necessity, and in all pro- 
bability their ancestors some hundred years ago, were equal 
to the present generation in the arts of life. 



Hunting — Moose — Rein Deer — Hedges for trapping Rein Deer 
— Vast herds of Rein Deer — Mahthee Mooswah. 

THE Natives of this Stoney Region subsist wholly by 
the chase and by fishing, the country produces no 
vegetables but berries on which they can live. The 
term " hunting " they apply only to the Moose and Rein 
Deer, and the Bear ; they look for, and find the Beaver, they 
kill with the Gun, and by traps the Otter and other animals. 
Hunting is divided into what may be termed " tracking " 
and " tracing." Tracking an animal is by following it's foot- 
steps, as the Rein Deer and the Bear and other beasts ; 
tracing, is following the marks of feeding, rubbing itself on 
the ground, and against trees, and lying down : which is for 
the Moose Deer, and for other animals on rocks and hard 
grounds. My remarks are from the Natives who are inti- 
mately acquainted with them, and make them their peculiar 
study. The first in order is the Moose Deer,^ the pride of 
the forest, and the largest of all the Deer, [it] is too well 
known to need a description. It is not numerous in proportion 
to the extent of country, but may even be said to be scarce. 
It is of a most watchful nature ; it's long, large, capacious 
ears enables it to catch and discriminate, every sound ; his 
sagacity for self preservation is almost incredible ; it feeds in 
wide circles, one within the other, and then lies down to 
ruminate near the centre ; so that in tracking of it, the 

^ Alces americanus (Clinton). [E. A. P.] 


unwary, or unskillful, hunter is sure to come to windward of, 
and start it ; when, in about two hours, by his long trot, 
he is at the distance of thirty or forty miles, from where it 
started ; when chased it can trot, (it's favorite pace) about 
twenty five to thirty miles an hour ; and when forced to a 
gallop, rather loses, than gains ground. In calm weather it 
feeds among the Pines, Aspins and WiUows ; the buds, and 
tender branches of the two latter are it's food : but in a gale 
of wind he retires among the close growth of Aspins, Alders 
and Willows on low ground still observing the same circular 
manner of feeding and lying down. If not molested it travels 
no farther than to find it's food, and is strongly attached to 
it's first haunts, and after being harrassed it frequently re- 
turns to it's usual feeding places. The flesh of a Moose in 
good condition, contains more nourishment than that of any 
other Deer ; five pounds of this meat being held to be equal 
in nourishment to seven pounds of any other meat even of 
the Bison, but for this, it must be killed where it is quietly 
feeding ; when run by Men, Dogs, or Wolves for any dis- 
tance, it's fiesh is alltogether changed, becomes weak and 
watery and when boiled ; the juices separates from the meat 
like small globules of blood, and does not make broth ; the 
change is so great, one can hardly be persuaded it is the meat 
of a Moose Deer. The nose of the Moose, which is very large 
and soft, is accounted a great delicacy. It is very rich meat. 
The bones of it's legs are very hard and several things are made 
of them. His skin makes the best of leather. It is the noblest 
animal of the Forest, and the richest prize the Hunter can 
take. In the rutting season the Bucks become very fierce, 
and in their encounters sometimes interlock their large pal- 
mated horns so strongly that they cannot extricate them, 
and both die on the spot, and [this is a thing] which happens 
too often : three of us tried to unlock the horns of two Moose 
which had died in this manner, but could not do it, although 
they had been a year in this state, and we had to use the axe. 

DEER 97 

In the latter end of September [1804] we had to build a trading 
house at Musquawegun Lake/ an Indian named Huggemowe- 
quan came to hunt for us, and on looking about thought the 
ground good for Moose, and told us to make no noise ; he was 
told no noise would be made except the falling of the trees, 
this he said the Moose did not mind ; when he returned, he 
told us he had seen the place a Doe Moose had been feeding 
in the beginning of May ; in two days more he had unravelled 
her feeding places to the beginning of September. One 
evening he remarked to us, that he had been so near to her 
that he could proceed no nearer, unless it blew a gale of wind, 
when this took place he set off early, and shot the Moose 
Deer. This took place in the very early part of October. 

This piece of hunting the Indians regarded as the work of 
a matchless hunter beyond all praise. The Natives are very 
dextrous in cutting up, and separating the joints, of a Deer, 
which in the open season has to be carried by them to the 
tent, or if near the water, to a canoe ; this is heavy work ; 
but if the distance is too great, the meat is split and dried 
by smoke, in which no resinous wood must be used ; this 
reduces the meat to less than one third of its weight. In 
winter this is not required, as the flat sleds are brought to 
the Deer, and the meat with all that is useful is hauled on 
the Snow to the tent. The Moose Deer, have rarely more 
than one Fawn at a birth, it's numbers are decreasing for, 
from it's settled habits a skillful hunter is sure to find, and 
wound, or kill this Deer, and it is much sought for, for food, 
for clothing and for Tents. The bones of the head of a Moose 
must be put into the water or covered with earth or snow. 

I have already described the Stony Region as extending 
from the most northern part of this continent, bounded, on 
the east by the sea, southward to Labrador and Nova Scotia, 
on the west by the chain of great Lakes : this great extent 

1 Musquawegan (which means Bear's Backbone) was situated on the 
Churchill river. Thompson spent here the winter of 1804-05. 



may properly be called the country of the Rein Deer, an 
animal too well known to need description ; and this Region 
is peculiar to the Rein Deer, on this continent it is found no 
where else. The Natives have well named it " Marthee 
Teek " the " ugly deer," and from its migratory habits, the 
Wandering Deer.^ It's form and way of Hfe, though admir- 
ably adapted to the rude countries and severe cHmates it 
inhabits, yet when compared with the graceful Antelope, it 
may be called not handsome. Their sight appears not good, 
and the eye dull, and has nothing of the brilliancy of the 
eyes of other deer. When examining anything that appears 
doubtful, it extends it's neck and head in an awkward manner, 
and cautiously approaches until it is sure what the object is. 
It's large, broad, hard, hoofs make it very sure footed, and 
quite safe, and swift on swamps, rocks, or smooth ice. It's 
meat is good, but has something of a peculiar taste ; the fat 

* The Reindeer here referred to belong to a form of caribou provision- 
ally described by Richardson under the name Cervus tarandus var. B. 
sylvesiris. These caribou spend the winter chiefly in the region now under 
consideration and migrate in spring eastward to the shore of Hudson Bay, 
about 150 miles south-east of York Factory, and return in autumn. In 
former years these animals were very numerous, but they have been sub- 
jected to such slaughter during their semi-annual migrations that their 
numbers are now much reduced, though they are still sometimes found in 
good-sized herds. Richardson's name has been revived recently on the 
basis of specimens examined from Upper Nelson river, and east of Lake 
Winnipeg (see Hollister, Smithsonian Misc. Coll., vol. 56, no. 5, p. 4, 
1 91 2). These specimens are of the Woodland Caribou type, and when 
compared with specimens from eastern Canada show differences of sub- 
specific rank. Their identity with the animals referred to by Richardson 
is still open to some question, as specimens actually from the Hayes river 
herds were not available for comparison. The inhabitants of the region 
consider the animals which cross Hayes river to be identical with the 
Barren Ground Caribou, Rangifer arcticus (Richardson). Mr. J. B. Tyrrell 
informs me that they are similar to the latter species in size, and not 
noticeably different in any way when observed at a little distance, but 
that they are certainly different from the larger Woodland Caribou of 
the same general region. It is important therefore that a series of speci- 
mens be secured which will permit comparison of this form both with the 
Barren Ground species and with the larger Woodland Caribou. [E. A. P.] 

DEER 99 

is somewhat like that of mutton ; the Tongue in richness 
and delicacy far exceeds any other deer, and is even superior 
to the tongue of the Bison. It's strong form and broad hoofs 
enables it to swim with ease and swiftness ; they boldly cross 
the largest Rivers and even Bays and Straits of the sea ; but 
in doing this, their want of clear eye sight leads them too far 
from land, and [they] are lost. When few in number, and 
scattered, they are cautious and timid ; but when in large 
herds, quite the reverse and are ready to trample down all 
before them. 

At York Factory, in the early part of the open season, 
the Rein Deer are sometimes numerous ; when they are so, 
commencing about four miles above the Factory, strong 
hedges of small pine trees, clear of their branches, are made, 
near to, and running parallel with, the bank of the River ; 
at intervals of about fifteen yards door ways are made in which 
is placed a snare of strong Hne, in which, the Deer in attempt- 
ing to pass, entangles itself ; when thus caught, it is sometimes 
strangled, but more frequently found alive ; and ready to 
defend itself ; the men, who every morning visit the hedge, 
are each armed with a spear of ten to twelve feet ; and must 
take care that the deer is at the length of his line and care- 
fully avoid the stroke of his fore feet, with which he is very 
active, and defends itself. The meat at this season is 
always poor and what is salted is barely eatable ; it is only 
in Autumn and the early part of winter that they are in good 

In the latter end of the month of May 1792, the ice had 
broken up. M" Cooke ^ and myself in a canoe proceeded 
about twenty miles up the River to shoot the Rein Deer, as 

^ William Cook was a native of London, England, and was engaged 
in the service of the Hudson's Bay Company for a number of years at the 
end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century. In 
1 799-1 800 he was rated as a trader with a salary of £to a year, and in 
1801-02 his salary was ;^8o a year. He was engaged chiefly at York Factory 
and up the Nelson river. 


they crossed the River ; we passed two days, in which time 
we had killed ten deer. On the third morning the weather 
cold and uncomfortable, we were sitting by our fire, when we 
heard a noise as of distant thunder, and somewhat alarmed, 
put our four guns, and blankets into the canoe, and sat 
quietly in it ; waiting what it could be ; with surprise we 
heard the sound increasing and rushing towards us, but we 
were not long in suspense. About forty yards below us, a 
vast herd of Rein Deer, of about one hundred yards of front, 
rushing through the woods, headlong descended the steep 
bank and swam across the river ; in the same manner ascended 
the opposite bank, and continued fuU speed through the 
woods ; we waited to see this vast herd pass, expecting to 
see it followed by a number of wolves ; but not one appeared, 
and in this manner the herd continued to pass the whole 
day to near sunset, when a cessation took place. On each 
hand were small herds of ten to twenty deer, all rushing 
forward with the same speed. The great herd were so 
closely packed together that not one more, if dropped among 
them, could find a place. The next day, a while after sun 
rise, the same sound and rushing noise was heard, and a deer 
herd of the same front, with the same headlong haste came 
down the bank and crossed the river, and continued to about 
two in the afternoon, attended by small herds on either side, 
after which small herds passed, but not with the same speed, 
and by sun set finally ceased. When we returned to the 
Factory and related what we had seen, they could hardly 
believe us, and had we not by chance been up the river, 
nothing would have been known of the passage of this great 
herd : for the weather, for a long fortnight after the breaking 
up of the ice is very precarious and uncomfor[t]able. Some 
time after, conversing with some of the Natives on this herd 
of Rein Deer they said that large herds do sometimes pass in 
the spring, they [had] often seen their roads, but had seldom 
seen the herds. The Factory next southward, [in] the direc- 

DEER 101 

tion of the Deer was that of Severn River,^ about 250 miles dis- 
tant, they knew nothing of this herd and through the summer 
had no more than usual. At York Factory it was other wise, 
the Deer were more numerous than usual, but only near the 
sea side. We attempted to estimate the number of Deer that 
passed in this great herd but the Natives pointed out their 
method, which was thought the best ; this was to allow the 
Deer a full hour and a half (by the Sun) in the morning to 
feed, and the same before sunset ; this would give ten full 
hours of running, of what we thought twenty miles an hour, 
which they reduced to twelve miles, observing that large 
herds appear to run faster than they really do. By this 
means they extended the herd of the first day to one hundred 
and twenty miles in length and the herd of the second day to 
half as much more, making the whole length of the herd to 
be one hundred and eighty miles in length, by one hundred 
yards in breadth. The Natives do not understand high 
numbers, but they readily comprehend space, though they 
cannot define it by miles and acres ; and their Clock is the 
path of the Sun. By the above space, allowing to each deer, 
ten feet by eight feet ; an area of eighty square feet ; the 
number of Rein Deer that passed was 3,564,000, an immense 
number ; without including the many small herds. Thus 
what we learn by numbers, we learn by space. Then apply- 
ing themselves to me, they said, You that look at the Stars 
tell us the cause of the regular march of this herd of Deer. 
I replied, " Instinct." What do you mean by that word. 
It's meaning is " the free and voluntary actions of an animal 
for it's self preservation." Oh Oh, then you think this herd 

^ The factory or trading post near the mouth of the Severn river 
was estabUshed by the Hudson's Bay Company sometime about the 
middle of the eighteenth century to secure the trade of the Indians, whose 
hunting-grounds were on the Severn river and its tributaries. The post 
is situated 240 miles south-eastward along the shore of Hudson Bay from 
York Factory on the west bank of the Severn river, six miles above its 
mouth, and is still annually supplied from York Factory. 


of Deer rushed forward over deep swamps, in which some 
perished, the others ran over them ; down steep banks to 
break their necks ; swam across large Rivers, where the strong 
drowned the weak ; went a long way through woods where 
they had nothing to eat, merely to take care of themselves. 
You white people, you look hke wise men, and talk like 
fools. The Deer feeds quietly, and lays down when left to 
itself. Do you not perceive this great herd was under the 
direct order of their Manito and that he was with them, he 
had gathered them together, made them take a regular line, 
and drove them on to where they are to go : " And where 
is that place. We don't know. But when he gets them 
there, they will disperse, none of them will ever come back ; 
and I had to give up my doctrine of Instinct, to that of their 
Manito. I have sometimes thought Instinct, to be a word 
invented by the learned to cover their ignorance of the ways 
and doings of animals for their self preservation ; it is a 
learned word and shuts up all the reasoning powers. 

On this stony region, there is another species of Deer, 
which I take to be a nondescript ; by the Nahathaway 
Indians it is called " Mahthee Mooswah," (the ugly Moose) ^ 
it is found only on a small extent of country mostly about 
the Hatchet Lake,^ in Latitude . . . and Longitude . . . 
This deer seems to be a Hnk between the Moose and the Rein 
Deer ; it is about twice the weight of the latter ; and has 
the habits of the former ; it's horns are palmated somewhat 
like those of a Moose, and it's colour is much the same ; it 
feeds on buds and the tender branches of Willows and 
Aspins, and also on moss. In all my wanderings I have 

1 Evidently some form of the Woodland Caribou, but if recognizable, 
not known to science. No specimens from this region appear to have been 
examined by naturalists. The animals are said to be much larger than 
the Barren Ground Caribou, Rangifer arcticus (Rich.). [E. A. P.] 

* Hatchet lake is a small rectangular body of clear water lying on the 
Stone river in latitude 58° 45' N. and longitude 103 45' W. Its greatest 
length is twelve miles, and its greatest width seven miles. 

DEER 108 

seen only two alive, and but a glimpse of them, they bounded 
off with the trot of the Moose ; and two that were killed by 
the Hunters ; one of them was entirely cut up, the other 
had only the bowels taken out ; this I wished to measure, 
but I saw the Hunters eyed with superstition what I wished 
to do, and desisted, and turned the matter off by enquiring 
how many of their skins make a comfortable Tent, they told 
me ten to twelve. They keep their haunts like the Moose, 
and when started return to them, but [I] could not learn 
whether they fed in rude circles, Hke the Moose ; Their 
meat is almost as good as that of the Moose, and far better 
than that of the Rein Deer ; When each of us was roasting 
a small piece at the fire, one of the Hunters said to me. We 
did not Hke to see you measure the Deer, for fear their Manito 
would be angry, he is soon displeased, and does not like his 
Deer to be killed, and has not many of them. 

The reason that this species of deer is so very little known 
is, it's haunts is on the verge of the barren lands, far to the 
eastward of the route of the Traders, and the country pro- 
duces but very few furrs. 



Instruments — Observations — Indian superstition — Ability of the 
Indian to travel — Journey down the Wini-peg River — 
Character of the French Canadians — Reed Lake — Indian 
character — ^mall pox — Amount of game — Trading Posts — 
their position and food — White Fish — Nets — Beaver — 
Bears — Frees — Canoes — Will o' the Wisp — Climate — 
December — Fapahpahtum Conjuring for wind — A Gale — 
Indian logic — Wiskahoo — Apistawahshish — Cannibalism. 

IT may now [be well to] say something of myself, and of 
the character the Natives and the french Canadians 
entertained of me, they were almost my only com- 
panions. My instruments for practical astronomy, were a 
brass Sextant of ten inches radius, an achromatic Telescope 
of high power for observing the Satellites of Jupiter and other 
phenomena, one of the same construction for common use, 
Parallel glasses and quicksilver horizon for double Altitudes ; 
Compass, Thermometer, and other requisite instruments, 
which I was in the constant practice of using in clear weather 
for observations on the Sun, Moon. Planets and Stars ; to 
determine the positions of the Rivers, Lakes, Mountains and 
other parts of the country I surveyed from Hudson Bay to the 
Pacific Ocean. Both Canadians and Indians often inquired 
of me why I observed the Sun, and sometimes the Moon, 
in the day time, and passed whole nights with my instru- 
ments looking at the Moon and Stars. I told them it was to 

determine the distance and direction from the place I observed 



to other places ; neither the Canadians nor the Indians 
beHeved me ; for both argued that if what I said was truth, 
I ought to look to the ground, and over it ; and not to the 
Stars. Their opinions were, that I was looking into futurity 
and seeing every body, and what they were doing ; how to 
raise the wind ; but did not believe I could calm it, this 
they argued from seeing me obliged to wait the calming of 
the wind on the great Lakes, to which the Indians added that 
I knew where the Deer were, and other superstitious opinions. 
During my life I have always been careful not to pretend to any 
knowledge of futurity, and [said] that I knew nothing beyond 
the present hour ; neither argument, nor ridicule had any 
effect, and I had to leave them to their own opinions and yet 
inadvertingly on my part, several things happened to confirm 
their opinions One fine evening in February two Indians 
came to the house to trade ; the Moon rose bright and clear 
with the planet Jupiter a few degrees on it's east side ; and 
the Canadians as usual predicted that Indians would come to 
trade in the direction of this star. To show them the folly 
of such predictions, I told them the same bright star, the 
next night, would be as far from the Moon on it's west side ; 
this of course took place from the Moon's motion in her 
orbit ; and is the common occurence of almost every month, 
and yet all parties were persuaded I had done it by some 
occult power to falsify the predictions of the Canadians. 
Mankind are fond of the marvelous, it seems to heighten their 
character by relating they have seen such things. I had 
always admired the tact of the Indian in being able to guide 
himself through the darkest pine forests to exactly the place 
he intended to go, his keen, constant attention on every 
thing ; the removal of the smallest stone, the bent or broken 
twig ; a shght mark on the ground, aU spoke plain language 
to him. I was anxious to acquire this knowledge, and often 
being in company with them, sometimes for several months, 
I paid attention to what they pointed out to me, and became 


almost equal to some of them ; which became of great use 
to me : The North West Company ^ of Furr Traders, from 
their Depot in Lake Superior sent off Brigades of Canoes 
loaded with about three Tons weight of Merchandise, Pro- 
visions and Baggage ; those for the most distant trading 
Posts are sent off first ; with an allowance of two days time 
between each Brigade to prevent incumbrances on the 
Carrying Places ; I was in my first year in the third Brigade 
of six Canoes each and having nothing to do but sketch off 
my survey and make Observations, I was noticing how far 
we gained, or lost ground on the Brigade before us, by the 
fires they made, and other marks, as we were equally manned 
with five men to each canoe : In order to prevent the winter 
coming on us, before we reached our distant winter quarters 
the Men had to work very hard from dayhght to sunset, or 
later, and at night slept on the ground, constantly worried 
by Musketoes ; and had no time to look about them ; I 
found we gained very little on them ; at the end of fifteen 
days we had to arrive at Lake Winipeg, (that is the Sea Lake 
from it's size) and for more than two days it had been blowing 

1 The North- West Company was first formed in 1783, v/hen a number 
of English fur-traders trading from Montreal, realizing that competition 
was proving ruinous to them and to the Canadian fur-trade, united their 
forces. The chief figures in the new company were Peter Pond, Peter 
Pangman, Benjamin and Joseph Frobisher, and Simon McTavish. Those 
traders who were not included in this company formed a rival organization 
under the name of Gregory, McLeod, and Company. After three or four 
years of competition, these two companies were amalgamated in 1787 
under the title of the North-West Company. The amalgamated company 
operated throughout the west until 1798, when several of the partners, 
among them Alexander Mackenzie, broke away from their former associ- 
ates, and formed an independent company, officially styled Forsyth, 
Richardson, and Company, but popularly known as the X Y Company. 
For the next six years these two companies, composed of men who had 
been old associates, and who had been trained in the same school, waged 
a severe commercial war with each other ; but in 1 804 they decided to 
reunite their interests in one company, which retained the name of the 
North-West Company. In 1821 the North- West Company was merged in 
the Hudson's Bay Company. 


a north west gale, which did not allow the Brigade before us 
to proceed ; and I told the Guide, that early the next morning 
we should see them ; these Guides have charge of conducting 
the march and are all proud of coming up to the canoes 
ahead of them, and by dawn of day we entered the Lake 
now calm, and as the day came on us, saw the Brigade that 
were before us, only one Mile ahead of us. The Guide and 
the men shouted with joy, and when we came up to them 
told them of my wonderful predictions, and that I had 
pointed out every place they had slept at, and aU by looking 
at the Stars ; one party seemed deHghted in being credulous, 
the other in exageration ; such are ignorant men, who never 
give themselves a moments reflection. The fact is Jean 
Baptiste wiU not think, he is not paid for it ; when he has a 
minute's respite he smokes his pipe, his constant companion 
and all goes well ; he will go through hardships, but requires 
a beUy full, at least once a day, good Tobacco to smoke, a 
warm Blanket, and a kind Master who will take his share of 
hard times and be the first in danger. Naval and MiHtary 
Men are not fit to command them in distant countries, neither 
do they place confidence in one of themselves as a leader ; 
they always prefer an Enghshman, but they ought always to 
be kept in constant employment however Hght it may be. 

Having passed eight winters in different parts of this 
Stony Region, and as many open Seasons in discovering part 
of it's many Rivers and Lakes, and surveying them ; and as 
the productions, the mode and manner of subsistence is 
everywhere the same ; to prevent repetition I shall confine 
myself to a central position, for the phenomena of the 
cUmate, and every thing else worth attention ; This place is 
[called] the Reed Lake^ (Peepeequoonuskoo Sakahagan) by 

^ The trading post at this lake was built in 1794 by Thompson for the 
Hudson's Bay Company ; and in it he spent the following winter. Later, 
he spent the winter of 1805-06 not far from the same place while trading 
for the North-West Company. The lake, which has an area of 85 square 
miles, is situated in the forest area north of the Saskatchewan river, and 


the Natives. It is a sheet of water about forty miles in length, 
by three to five miles in width ; the land all around it, 
sometimes showing cliffs, but in most places rising gently to 
about the height of one hundred feet, everywhere having fine 
forests of Birch Aspins and several kinds of Pine : the Trading 
House in Latitude 54° 40' N. Longitude 101° 30' west of 
Greenwich. The Thermometer was made by Dolland and 
divided to 102 degrees below Zero. This section of the 
Stony Region is called the Musk Rat Country and contains 
an area of about 22,360 square miles, of which, full two fifths 
of this surface is Rivers and Lakes, having phenomena distinct 
from the dry, elevated, distant, interior countries. The 
Natives are Nahathaway Indians, whose fathers from time 
beyond any tradition, have hunted in these Lands ; in con- 
versing with them on their origin, they appear never to have 
turned their minds to this subject ; and [think] that mankind 
and the animals are in a constant state of succession ; and 
the time of their great grandfathers is the extent of their 
actual knowledge of times past ; their tradition of the 
Deluge and of the Rainbow I have already mentioned ; yet 
their stories all refer to times when Men were much taller 
and stronger than at present, the animals more numerous, 
and many could converse with mankind, particularly, the 
Bear, Beaver, Lynx and Fox. Writers on the North American 
Indians always write as comparing them, with themselves 
who are aU men of education, and of course [the Indians] 
lose by comparison ; this is not fair ; let them be compared 
with those who are uneducated in Europe, yet even in this 
comparison the Indian has the disadvantage in not having 
the light of Christianity. Of course his moral character has 
not the firmness of christian morality, but in practice he is 

just at the foot of a low escarpment of limestone which rises to the south 
of it. Except on the south side the rock underlying the surrounding 
country is granite, but overlying the granite in many places is a moderate 
thickness of good clay soil. 


fully equal to those of his class in Europe ; living without 
law, they are a law to themselves. The Indian is said to be 
a creature of apathy, when he appears to be so, he is in an 
assumed character to conceal what is passing in his mind ; 
as he has nothing of the almost infinite diversity of things 
which interest and amuse the civilised man ; his passions, 
desires and affections are strong, however appeared subdued, 
and engage the whole man ; the law of retaliation, which is 
fuUy allowed, makes the life of man respected ; and in general 
he abhors the sheding of blood, and should sad necessity 
compel him to it, which is sometimes the case, he is held to 
be an unfortunate man ; but he who has committed wilful 
murder is held in abhorrence, as one with whom the life of 
no person is in safety, and possessed with an evil spirit. When 
Hudson Bay was discovered, and the first trading settlement 
made, the Natives were far more numerous than at present. 

In the year 1782, the small pox^ from Canada extended 
to them, and more than one .half of them died ; since which 
although they have no enemies, their country very healthy, 
yet their numbers increase very slowly. The Musk Rat 
country, of which I have given the area, may have ninety 
two famiHes, each of seven souls, giving to each family an 
area of two hundred and forty eight square miles of hunting 
grounds ; or thirty five square miles to each soul, a very 
thin population. A recent writer (Ballantyne)^ talks of myriads 

1 The exact date when smallpox first spread among the Indians through- 
out the North-West is not quite certain ; but it would appear that it was 
sometime during 1781, and that it disappeared, or at least greatly de- 
creased in virulence, in 1782. A full account of the havoc played among 
the Indians by this dread disease will be found in Thompson's own words 
on pages 321-25. 

* It was about the time when Thompson was writing his memoirs 
that R. M. Ballantyne began to publish his interesting stories of life among 
the fur-traders of the Hudson's Bay Company in western Canada. Ballan- 
tyne was then a young man, and Thompson was getting very old ; and it 
is possible that the exuberance of spirit shown by the former may have 
grated on the mature judgment of the older man. Game was then, and 
is yet, fairly abundant throughout many parts of what Thompson calls 


of wild animals ; such writers talk at random, they have never 
counted, nor calculated ; the animals are by no means 
numerous, and only in sufficient numbers to give a tolerable 
subsistence to the Natives, who are too often obhged to live 
on very little food, and sometimes all but perish with hunger. 
Very few Beaver are to be found, the Bears are not many 
and all the furr bearing animals an Indian can kill can scarcely 
furnish himself and family with the bare necessaries of life. 
A strange Idea prevails among these Natives, and also of all 
the Indians to the Rocky Mountains, though unknown to 
each other, that when they were numerous, before they 
were destroyed by the Small Pox all the animals of every 
species were also very numerous and more so in comparison 
of the number of Natives than at present ; and this was 
confirmed to me by old Scotchmen in the service of the 
Hudson's Bay Company, and by the Canadians from Canada ; 
the knowledge of the latter extended over all the interior 
countries, yet no disorder was known among the animals ; 
the fact was certain, and nothing they knew of could account 
for it ; it might justly be supposed the destruction of Mankind 
would allow the animals to increase, even to become formidable 
to the few Natives who survived, but neither the Bison, the 
Deer, nor the carnivorous animals increased, and as I have 
already remarked, are no more than sufficient for the subsis- 
tence of the Natives and Traders. The trading Houses over 
the whole country are situated on the banks of lakes, of at 
least twenty miles in length by two or three miles in width ; 
and as much larger as may be, as it is only large and deep 
Lakes that have Fish sufficient to maintain the Trader and 
his Men, for the Indians at best can only afford a Deer now 
and then. 

Some Lakes give only what is called a Fall Fishery. This 

the Muskrat country, but the hunter's life is everywhere a precarious one, 
for the wild animals may move quickly from place to place and the natives, 
who need to obtain food daily in order to live, may not be able to follow 
them or to find them quickly enough to avert starvation. 


fishery commences in October and lasts to about Christmas ; 
the fish caught are white fish^ and pike.^ Whatever is not 
required for the day is frozen and laid by in a hoard ; and 
with all care is seldom more than enough for the winter 
and a fish once frozen loses it's good taste unless kept in that 
state until it is thrown into the kettle of boiling water. Fish 
thawed and then boiled are never good ; We who pass the 
winter on fish, and sometimes also the summer, are the best 
judges, for we have nothing with them, neither butter nor 
sauces ; and too often not a grain of salt. The best Lakes 
are those that have a steady fishery ; and according to the 
number and length of the Nets give a certain number of 
White Fish ; throughout the winter. The deep Lakes that 
have sandy, pebbly beaches, with bottoms of the same may 
be depended on for a steady fishery The Fish on which the 
Traders place dependance are the White Fish, in such Lakes 
as I have last described. It is a rich well tasted, nourishing 
food ; but in shoal muddy Lakes it is poor and not well 
tasted ; and when a new trading House is built which is 
almost every year, every one is anxious to know the quaUty 
of the fish it contains for whatever it is they have no other 
for the winter. These fish vary very much in size and weight, 
from two to thirteen pounds and each great Lake appears to 
have a sort peculiar to itself, it is preyed upon by the Pike 
and Trout ; and also the white headed, or bald, Eagle. The 
seine is seldom used, it is too heavy and expensive, and useless 
in winter. The set Net is that which is in constant use ; 
those best made are of hoUand twine, with a five and a half 
inch mesh but this mesh must be adapted to the size of the 
fish and ranges from three to seven inches ; the best length is 
fifty fathoms, the back fines, on which the net is extended and 
fastened are of small cord ; every thing must be neat and 
fine : Instead of Corks and Leads, small stones are tied to 
the bottom line with twine at every two fathoms, opposite 

^ Coregonus. [E. A. P.] " Esox lucius Linn. [E. A. P.] 


to each on the upper line, a float of light pine, or cedar wood 
is tied which keeps the net distended ; both in summer and 
winter the best depth for nets, is three to five fathom water ; 
in shoal water the fish are not so good. In winter the nets 
being sheltered by the ice, the fishery is more steady, not 
being disturbed by gales of wind. In some Lakes in Spring 
and Autumn there are an abundance of grey^ and red Carp ;'^ 
the former have so very many small bones that only the head 
and a piece behind it are eaten ; but the red Carp are a good 
fish though weak food. The daily allowance of a Man is 
eight pounds of fish, which is held to be equal to five pounds 
of meat ; almost the only change through the year are hares 
and grouse, very dry eating ; a few Martens,^ a chance Beaver,* 
Lynx^ and Porcupine.'^ Vegetables would be acceptable but 
[are] not worth the trouble and risk of raising, and almost 
every small trading house is deserted during the summer, or 
only two men [are] left to take care of the place ; every person 
with very few exceptions, enjoys good health, and we neither 
had, nor required a medical Man. Formerly the Beavers 
were very numerous, the many Lakes and Rivers gave them 
ample space ; and the poor Indian had then only a pointed 
stick shaped and hardened in the fire, a stone Hatchet, Spear 
and Arrow heads of the same ; thus armed he was weak 
against the sagacious Beaver, who, on the banks of a Lake, 
made itself a house of a foot thick, or more ; composed of 
earth and small flat stones, crossed and bound together with 
pieces of wood ; upon which no impression could be made 
but by fire. But when the arrival of the White People had 
changed all their weapons from stone to iron and steel, and 
added the fatal Gun, every animal fell before the Indian ; 

^ Moxostoma lesueuri (Richardson). [E. A. P.] 

* Catostomus catostomus (Forster). [E. A. P.] 

* Martes a. ahieticola (Preble). [E. A. P.] 

* Castor canadensis Kuhl. [E. A. P.] 
' Lynx canadensis Kerr. [E. A. P.] 

* Erethizon dorsatum (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 


the Bear was no longer dreaded, and the Beaver became a 
desirable animal for food and clothing, and the furr a valuable 
article of trade ; and as the Beaver is a stationary animal, 
it could be attacked at any convenient time in all seasons, 
and thus their numbers soon became reduced. 

The old Indians, when speaking of their ancestors, wonder 
how they could live as the Beaver was wiser, and the Bear 
stronger, than them, and confess, that if they were deprived 
of the Gun, they could not live by the Bow and Arrow, 
and must soon perish. The Beaver skin is the standard by 
which other Furrs are traded ; and London prices have very 
little influence on this value of barter, which is more a matter 
of expedience and convenience to the Trader and the Native, 
than of real value. The only Bears of this country, are the 
small black Bear,^ with a chance Yellow Bear, this latter has 
a fine furr and trades for three Beavers in barter, when full 
grown. The Black Bear is common and according to size 
passes for one or two Beavers, the young are often tamed by 
the Natives, and are harmless and playful, until near full 
grown, when they become troublesome, and are killed, or 
sent into the woods ; while they can procure roots and 
berries, they look for nothing else. But in the Spring, when 
they leave their winter dens, they can get neither the one, 
nor the other, prowl about, and go to the Rapids where the 
Carp are spawning ; here Bruin lives in plenty ; but not 
content with what it can eat, amuses itself with tossing 
ashore ten times more than it can devour, each stroke of it's 
fore paw sending a fish eight or ten yards according to it's 
size ; the fish thus thrown ashore attract the Eagle and the 
Raven ; ^ the sight of these birds flying about, leads the 
Indian to the place, and Bruin loses his Hfe and his skin. 
The meat of the Bear feeding on roots and berries becomes 

^ Ursus americanus Pallas. The so-called Yellow Bear is merely a 
colour phase of the Black Bear. [E. A. P.] 

2 Corvus corax principalis Ridgw^ay. [E. A. P.] 



very fat and good, and in this condition it enters it's den 
for the winter ; at the end of which the meat is still good, 
and has some fat, but the very first meal of fish the taste 
of the meat is changed for the worse, and soon becomes 
disagreeable. When a Mahmees Dog, in the winter season 
has discovered a den, and the Natives go to kill the Bear, 
on uncovering the top of the den, Bruin is found roused out 
of it's dormant state, and sitting ready to defend itself ; the 
eldest man now makes a speech to it ; reproaching the Bear 
and all it's race with being the old enemies of Man, killing 
the children and women, when it was large and strong ; but 
now, since the Manito has made him, small and weak to what 
he was before, he has all the will, though not the power to 
be as bad as ever, that he is treacherous and cannot be trusted, 
that although he has sense he makes bad use of it, and must 
therefore be killed ; parts of the speech have many repeti- 
tions to impress it's truth on the Bear, who all the time is 
grinning and growling, wiUing to fight, but more willing to 
escape, until the axe descends on it's head, or [it] is shot ; the 
latter more frequently, as the den is often under the roots 
of fallen trees, and protected by the branches of the roots. 

When a Bear thus killed was hauled out of it's den, I 
enquired of the Indian who made the speech, whether he 
really thought the Bear understood him. He repHed, " how 
can you doubt it, did you not see how ashamed I made him, 
and how he held down his head ; " " He might well hold 
down his head, when you were flourishing a heavy axe over 
it, with which you killed him." On this animal they have 
several superstitions, and he acts a prominent part in many 
of their tales. All the other furr bearing animals have been 
already noticed. On the western parts of this region the 
Forests have trees of a finer and larger growth, and now 
contain two kinds of Birch, the white ^ and the red ; ^ one of 

1 Betula papyrifera Marsh. [E. A. P.] 

^ Probably Betula alaskana Sargent. [E. A. P.] 


Poplar ^ and one of Aspin,^ one kind of Larch,^ two of Fir ; * 
four of Pine ; ^ with Alders and Willows. Of these the White 
Birch is the most valuable, and contributes more than all 
the others to the necessaries and comforts of life. Of the 
Birch their Bows, Axe helves and Spear handles are made, 
and several other things ; in the Spring the sap, when boiled 
down, yields a weak molasses : but the most useful part is 
the Rind, which is peculiar to this tree ; the bark is of a redish 
color, and good for tanning : this bark is covered with a 
Rind, it's growth in a horizontal, or longitudinal, direction ; 
while that of the Tree, and it's bark are vertical ; in my 
travels I have noticed, that the thickness of the Rind depends 
on the climate ; the colder the climate the thicker the Birch 
Rind ; on the west side of the Mountains where the winter 
is very mild, the White Birch is a noble large Tree, but the 
Rind too thin to be useful for Canoes. In this region, few 
white Birch exceed thirty inches in girth ; but in general 
the Rind is excellent for all purposes and is from two eights 
to three eights in thickness ; it is all marked with what is 
called cores on the outside of the rind, of about an inch in 
length ; and narrow, when these go through the rind, it 
makes it useless for canoes. When the Natives see a Birch 
tree with deep cores, they say it has been severely flogged 
by Weesaukejauk (the Flatterer) for by their tradition, when 
the Trees were renovated after the deluge, Weesaukejauk 
commanded them all to appear before him, which order they 
all obeyed but the Birch Tree ; which for disobedience he 
flogged, of which the cores are the marks. The best time 
for raising the rind off the Birch Tree is the early part of the 
summer ; the tree being smooth is difficult to ascend, and 

> Populus balsamifera Linn. [E. A. P.] 

* Populus tremuloides Michx. [E. A. P.] 
^ Larix laricina (Du Roi). [E. A. P.] 

* Abies halsamea (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 

^ Pinus divaricata (Ait.). Thompson evidently had in mind other 
species found farther west. [E. A. P.] 


for this purpose the Native ties a strong leather cord to the 
great toes of his feet, leaving a space between them of about 
one foot, and having a strong square headed knife, very sharp 
at the point, in his belt, he ascends the tree to as high as the 
Rind is good, then raising a small strip from around the tree, 
in a straight line downwards cuts quite through the rind, 
which readily leaves the bark, and while the sap is rising comes 
off so freely that two persons with Hght poles keep it to the 
tree until it can be carefully taken down ; it is then warmed 
and it's circular form made flat, laid on the ground, and kept 
so, by light logs of wood ; and thus [it] becomes fit for use. 
The common length from one tree is from nine to fifteen 
feet, with a breadth of twenty four to thirty inches, very 
few trees yield a greater breadth, in this cHmate. As the 
Birch Rind is impervious to water ; Canoes are made of it 
of all sizes to thirty feet in length, by four to five feet in 
breadth on the middle bar ; this large size is made use of 
by the Traders, for the conveyance of furrs and goods, and 
is so light, it is carried by two men, when turned up. On 
shore, it affords good shelter to the Men, against Rain and 
the night. The canoes of the Natives are from ten to sixteen 
feet in length, and breadth in proportion, during the open 
season, they are almost constantly in them ; hunting ; re- 
moving from place to place, the Rivers and numerous Lakes 
giving free access through the whole country. Their dishes 
and domestic utensils are mostly of Birch Rind, which are 
made of various sizes, and pack up with [each] other and being 
light, with a smooth, firm, surface are easily kept clean. This 
Rind is inflamable, and makes bright torches. For coverings 
to their tents and lodges, the Rind is sewed together so as 
to take the form required ; and being water proof, make a 
light comfortable tent in all weathers, and when the rain is 
over, the Natives can directly remove ; whereas a leather 
tent when soaked with rain, requires a day's time and fire to 
dry it. Unfortunately the cold of winter renders it brittle 


and liable to accidents ; and it must be warmed before it 
can be rolled up for removal ; and the same to unroll it. 
The red Birch has a tougher wood, and in this respect is 
preferred to the White, but it's rind is thin, and as it grows 
among rocks, very often is small, crooked and knotty. The 
Fir is resinous, and makes good flambeaux's for spearing fish 
at night. The Larch is in request for making flat Sleds, used 
by the Natives for the removal of their goods and provisions 
in winter, it sparkles too much to be used for fire wood, 
and all the Pine woods are more or less the same for fuel. 
The Firs and resinous Pines when wholly decayed, become 
fine sand, without any vegetable mould, but all the trees 
and willows, not of the pine genus, enrich the soil by the 
decay of the leaves and the wood ; The Larch is leafless all 
winter, and other Pines shed their leaves in summer, yet they 
also become sand, and do not profit the soil. The great 
expanse of Lake surface in this region, causes phenomena, 
that are peculiar to such a surface ; In the winter season, 
every calm clear night, especially in the early part ; there 
are innumerable very small luminous, meteoric points, which 
are visible for the twinkling of an eye, and disappear. When 
they are more numerous and brighter than usual, they fore- 
tell a gale of wind. On one occasion, five of us had to leave 
our new built winter house, as the fishery could not maintain 
us, and try to get another trading house where the fish were 
more plentifull ; On coming to the Susquagemow Lake,^ of 
about thirty miles in length, by three to five miles in width ; 
it was so sHghtly frozen over we did not think proper to cross 

1 Suskwagemow or Sturgeon lake, now known as Landing lake, lies 
a short distance north-west of Nelson river, from which it is reached 
by a portage known as Cross Portage, one and a half miles in length. 
The water from it flows northward through the Grass river, which flows 
into the Nelson river a short distance above Split lake. The Hudson 
Bay Railway is at present being constructed down the valley of this 
stream. The incident here referred to probably occurred in the autumn 
of 1792. 


it, but [preferred to] wait until the ice became stronger. 
This was in November, roaming about for hares and grouse ; 
I found a fine River of about thirty yards in width that 
entered the Lake through a marsh ; about half a mile up 
which, was a Beaver House, with a few yards of open water, 
kept from freezing over by the Beaver. The Moon was full 
and rose beautifully over the east end of the Lake ; While 
the water can be kept open, in the early part of the night 
the Beaver swim about ; and Andrew Davy, a tall young 
Scotchman and myself took our guns and lay down near the 
Beaver House to shoot the Beaver as they swam about ; a 
Beaver came near to Andrew, his gun snapped, the Beaver 
gave a smart stroke on the water with his broad tail, as if 
to bid us good night, and plunged into his house ; although 
there was no more hope for that night, being hungry, we 
continued to watch until about eleven O'clock ; As we were 
about to rise, a brilliant light [rose] over the east end of the 
Lake, its greatest length ; it was a Meteor of a globular form, 
and appeared larger than the Moon, which was then high ; 
it seemed to come direct towards us, lowering as it came, 
when within three hundred yards of us, it struck the River 
ice, with a sound like a mass of jelly, was dashed into in- 
numerable luminous pieces and instantly expired. Andrew 
would have run away but he had no time to do so ; curiosity 
chained me to the spot. We got up, went to our fire, found 
nothing to eat, and lay down. As the ice of the River was 
covered with about one sixth of an inch of frozen snow, 
just enough to show our footsteps, the next morning we went 
to see what marks this meteor had made on the ice, but 
could not discover that a single particle was marked, or re- 
moved ; it's form appeared globular, and from its size must 
have had some weight ; it had no tail, and no luminous 
sparks came from it until dashed to pieces. The Meteors 
that have been seen in Europe, have all appeared to be of a 
fiery nature, some have exploded with a loud noise, and 


stones have descended from them. Two, or three nights 
afterw-ards, I was, as usual roaming about to find some game, 
about six in the evening, from the east end of the lake, coming 
in the same direction, I saw a Meteor, which appeared larger 
but not so bright as the first ; I was near the Beaver house, 
but walking in a large grove of fine Aspins, the Meteor entered 
the wood about eight feet above the ground, as it struck 
the trees, pieces flew from it, and went out ; as it passed 
close hy me striking the trees with the sound of a mass of 
jeUy, I noticed them ; although it must have lost much of 
it's size from the many trees it struck, it went out of my 
sight, a large mass. The Aspins have on their bark a whitish 
substance like flour, after dry weather ; the next day I 
examined the Aspins struck by the Meteor, but even this fine 
flour on the bark was not marked ; I was at a loss what to 
think of it, it's stroke gave sound, and therefore must have 
substance. These two Meteors were, perhaps, compressed 
bodies of phosphoric air ; but without the least heat, for had 
there been any, the second Meteor passed so near to me I 
must have felt it. 

I have already described the brilliant Rime which covers 
the WiUows and Shrubs along the shores of Hudson's Bay, 
this is readily accounted for, by the evaporation from the 
sea ; but the inland Lake shores have it equally brilliant, 
though not in such abundance ; and [it] also proceeds from 
the evaporation from the Lakes though frozen over, and the 
open rapids, and half frozen swamps have it in abundance, 
the Lake shores less, until swept away by a gale of wind, to 
be reformed in calm weather. It is well known that water 
frozen into ice, the latter has a greater bulk than the quantity 
of water frozen ; and however soHd the ice appears, it is 
actually porous : When the lakes are frozen over and there is 
from three to four inches in thickness, the vapours through it, 
form plots of ice flowers, which are composed of thin shining 
leaves of ice round a centre, and have a brilliant appearance ; 


they are of all sizes, some so small as to be called snow pearl. 
The clearest ice have the plots of small flowers, that which is 
opaque has the largest flowers ; when the Sun shines, the 
leaves are sHghtly tinged with the colours of the Rainbow, 
have fine gaudy appearance, but [are] too bright for the eye 
to bear any time ; the first fall of snow covers them to be 
seen no more. 

What is called Mirage is common on all these Lakes, but 
frequently [is] simply an elevation of the woods and shores 
that bound the horizon ; yet at times draw attention to the 
change of scenery it exhibits, and on these Lakes has often 
kept me watching it for many minutes ; and [I] would have 
stayed longer if the cold had permitted : The first and most 
changeable Mirage is seen in the latter part of February and 
the month of March, the weather clear, the wind calm, or 
light ; the Thermometer from ten above to twelve degrees 
below zero, the time about ten in the morning. On one 
occasion, going to an Isle where I had two traps for Foxes, 
when about one mile distant, the ice between me and the 
Isle appeared of a concave form, which, if I entered, I should 
slide into it's hollow, sensible of the illusion, it had the power 
to perplex me. I found my snow shoes, on a level, and ad- 
vanced slowly, as afraid to slide into it ; in about ten minutes 
this mirage ceased, the ice became [distinct] and showed a 
level surface, and with confidence I walked to my traps, in 
one of which I found a red Fox ; ^ this sort of Mirage is not 
frequent. That most common elevates and depresses objects, 
and sometimes makes them appear to change places : In the 
latter end of February at the Reed Lake, at it's west end, a 
Mirage took place in one of it's boldest forms ; About three 
miles from me was the extreme shore of the Bay ; the Lake 
was near three miles in width, in which was a steep Isle of 
rock, and another of tail Pines ; on the other side a bold 

^ Vulpes fulva (Desmarest). [E. A.. P.] 


Point of steep rock. The Mirage began slowly to elevate all 
objects, then gently to lower them, until the Isles, and the 
Point appeared like black spots on the ice, and no higher 
than it's surface ; the above bold Bay Shore, was a dark 
black curved Hne on the ice ; in the time of three minutes, 
they all arose to their former height, and became elevated 
to twice their height, beyond the Bay, the rising grounds, 
distant eight miles, with all their woods appeared, and re- 
mained somewhat steady for a few minutes ; the Isles and 
Point again disappeared ; the Bay Shore with the distant 
Forests, came rolling forward, with an undulating motion, 
as if in a dance, the distant Forests became so near to me I 
could see their branches, then with the same motion retired 
to half distance ; the Bay shore could not be distinguished, 
it was blended with the distant land ; thus advancing and 
retiring with different elevations for about fifteen minutes, 
when the distant Forests vanished, the Isles took their place 
and the Lake shores their form ; the whole wild scenery was 
a powerful illusion, too fleeting and changeful for any pencil. 
This was one of the clearest and most distinct Mirages I had 
ever seen. There can be no doubt it is the effect of a cause 
which, perhaps, was waves of the atmosphere loaded with 
vapours, though not perceptible to the eye, between the 
beholder and the objects on which the mirage acts, with the 
Sun in a certain position, when the objects were seen on the 
ridge of the wave, it gave them their elevation ; when in 
the hollow of the wave, their greatest depression ; and viewed 
obHquely to the direction of the wave, the objects appeared 
to change places. There may be a better theory to account 
for the Mirage. 

While the Mirage is in fuU action, the scenery is so clear 
and vivid, the illusion so strong, as to perplex the Hunter 
and the Traveller ; it appears more like the power of magic, 
than the play of nature. 

When enquiring of the Natives what they thought of it, 


they said it was Manito Korso ; the work of a Manito ; and 
with this argument they account for every thing that is 

Although the cHmate and country of which I am writing 
is far better than that of Hudson's Bay, yet the climate is 
severe in Winter the Thermometer often from thirty to forty 
degrees below Zero. The month of December is the coldest ; 
the long absence of the Sun gives full effect to the action of 
the cold ; the Snow increases in depth, it may be said to fall 
as dry as dust ; the ice rapidly increases in thickness, and the 
steady cold of the rest of winter adds but little to that of the 
end of this month ; but it's contraction by intense cold, 
causes the ice to rend in many places with a loud rumbHng 
noise, and through these rents, water is often thrown out, 
and flows over part of the ice, making bad walking. This 
month has very variable weather, sometimes a calm of several 
days, then Gales of wind with light snow, which from it's 
Hghtness is driven about Hke dust. This dull month of long 
nights we wish to pass away ; the country affords no tallow 
for candles ; nor fish oil for lamps ; the light of the fire is 
what we have to work and read by. Christmas when it comes 
finds us glad to see it and pass ; we have nothing to welcome 
it with. In one of the calms of this month Tapahpahtum, a 
good hunter came to us for some provisions and fish hooks, 
he said his three wives and his children had had very little 
to eat for nearly a whole Moon adding you may be sure that 
we suffer hunger when I come to beg fish, and get hooks 
for my women to angle with. He took away about thirty 
pounds of fish, which he had to carry about twenty miles to 
his tent. I felt for him, for nothing but sad necessity can 
compel a Nahathaway hunter to carry away fish, and angle 
for them, this is too mean for a hunter ; meat he carries with 
pleasure, but fish is degradation. The calm still continued ; 
and two days after Tapapahtum came in the evening ; he 
looked somewhat wild ; he was a powerful man of strong 


passions ; as usual I gave him a bit of Tobacco, he sat down 
and smoked, inhaling the smoke as if he would have drawn 
the tobacco through the pipe stem ; then saying, now I have 
smoked, I may speak ; I do not come to you for fish, I hope 
never to disgrace myself again ; I now come for a wind 
which you must give me ; in the mood he was in to argue 
with him was of no use, and I said, why did you not bring 
one of your women with you, she would have taken some fish 
to the tent ; " My women are too weak, they snare a hare, 
or two every day, barely enough to keep them ahve. I am 
come for a wind which you must give me " ; " You know as 
well as I do that the Great Spirit alone is master of the Winds ; 
you must apply to him, and not to me " ; " Ah, that is always 
your way of talking to us, when you will not hear us, then 
you talk to us of the Great Spirit. I want a Wind, I must 
have it, now think on it, and dream, how I am to get it." I 
lent him an old Bison Robe to sleep on ; which was all we 
could spare. The next day was calm ; he sat on the floor in 
a despondent mood, at times smoking his pipe ; and saying 
to me, " Be kind to me, be kind to me, give me a Wind that 
we may Hve." I told him the Good Spirit alone could 
cause the wind to blow, and my French Canadians were as 
foolish as the poor Indian ; saying to one another, it would 
be a good thing, and well done, if he got a wind ; we should 
get meat to eat. The night was very fine and clear, I passed 
most of it observing the Moon and Stars as usual ; the small 
meteors were very numerous, which indicated a Gale of 
Wind ; the morning rose fine, and before the appearance of 
the Sun, tho' calm with us, the tops of the taU Pines were 
waving, all foreteUing a heavy gale, which usually follows a 
long calm ; all this was plain to every one ; Very early 
Tapahpahtum said ; Be kind and give me a strong wind ; 
vexed with him, I told him to go, and take care that the 
trees did not fall upon him ; he shouted " I have got it " ; 
sprang from the floor, snatched his gun, whipt on his Snow 


Shoes, and dashed away at five miles an hour ; the gale from 
North East came on as usual with snow and high drift, and 
lasted three days ; for the two first days we could not visit 
the nets, which sometimes happens ; the third day the drift 
ceased, but the nets had been too long in the water without 
being washed, and we had to take them up. On this gale of 
wind, a common occurence, I learnt my men were more 
strangely foolish than the Indians ; something better than 
two months after this gale, I sent three of the men with 
letters to an other trading house and to bring some articles 
I wanted ; here these men related how I had raised a storm 
of wind for the Indian, but had made it so strong that for 
two days they got no fish from the nets, adding, they thought 
I would take better care another time. In these distant 
solitudes. Men's minds seem to partake of the wildness of 
the country they live in. Four days after Tapahpahtum 
with one of his women came, he had killed three Moose Deer, 
of which he gave us one, for which I paid him ; He was now 
in his calm senses : and I reasoned with him on the folly of 
looking to any one, to get what the Good Spirit alone could 
give, and that it made us all Hable to his anger. He said I 
believe it, I know it, I spent the autumn and the early part 
of the winter working on Beaver Houses, it is hard work, 
and only gives meat while we are working ; When the Snow 
was well on the ground I left off to hunt Moose Deer, but 
the winds were weak, and unsteady ; my women had to 
snare hares, my little boy, with his Bow killed a few grouse, 
which kept us aHve until the long Calm came. I waited a 
little, then in the evening I took my Rattle and tambour 
and sung to the Great Spirit and the Manito of the Winds ; 
the next morning I did the same, and took out of my medicine 
bag, sweet smeUing herbs and laid them on a small fire to 
the Manito. I smoked and sung to him for a wind, but he 
shut his ears and would not listen to me : for three days I 
did the same ; but he kept his ears shut. I became afraid 


that he was angry with me ; I left my tent and came to you, 
my head was not right ; what you gave me was a relief for 
my women and children, I again sung, but the wind did not 
blow, he would not hear me, my heart was sore, and I came 
to you, in hopes that you had power over the winds ; for we 
all believe the Great Spirit speaks to you in the night, when 
you are looking at the Moon and Stars, and tells you of what 
we know nothing. It seems a natural weakness of the human 
mind when in distress, to hope from others, equally helpless, 
when we have lost confidence in ourselves. Wiskahoo was 
naturally a cheerful, good natured, careless man, but hard 
times had changed him. He was a good Beaver worker and 
trapper, but an indifferent Moose Hunter, now and then 
killed one by chance, he had been twice so reduced by hunger, 
as to be twice on the point of eating one of his children to 
save the others, when he was fortunately found and relieved 
by the other Natives ; these sufferings had, at times, unhinged 
his mind, and made him dread being alone, he had for about 
a month, been working Beaver, and had now joined Tapap- 
pahtum ; and their Tents were together ; he came to trade, 
and brought some meat the other had sent. It is usual when 
the Natives come to trade to give them a pint of grog ; a 
liquor which I always used very sparingly ; it was a bad 
custom, but could not be broken off : Wiskahoo as soon as 
he got it, and while drinking of it, used to say in a thoughtful 
mood " Nee weet to go " " I must be a Man eater." This 
word seemed to imply " I am possessed of an evil spirit to 
eat human flesh " ; " Wee tee go " is the evil Spirit, that 
devours humankind. When he had said this a few times, 
one of the Men used to tie him sHghtly, and he soon became 
quiet ; these sad thoughts at times came upon him, from the 
dreadful distress he had suffered ; and at times took him in 
his tent, when he always allowed himself to be tied during 
this sad mood, which did not last long. 

Three years afterwards this sad mood came upon him so 


often, that the Natives got alarmed. They shot him, and 
burnt his body to ashes, to prevent his ghost remaining in 
this world. Apistawahshish (the Dwarf) was of low stature, 
but strongly made and very active, a good Beaver worker, 
and a second rate hunter of Moose deer ; he was careful and 
industrious ; When the leaves of the trees had fallen, and 
winter was coming on, he had parted from the others to 
work Beaver ; at first he was successful ; but the third house 
he attacked, the beaver had worked many stones into it, [so] 
that he broke his ice chissel and blunted one of his axes useless ; 
the other was aU they had to cut fire wood ; the edges of the 
Lakes were frozen over and canoes could not be used. Dis- 
tressing times came, and they were reduced to use as food 
the youngest child to save the others. They were so weak 
they could barely get a little wood for the fire ; sitting in 
sorrow and despair looking at the child next to lose it's 
life, a Rein Deer came and stood a few yards from the 
tent door ; he shot it and [it] became the means of saving 
them, and recovering their strength ; and for the winter 
he was a fortunate hunter. Both himself, his family, and 
the Natives believed that this Deer was sent by the Manito 
in pity to himself and family ; he kept the skin, which 
I saw. 

The Indians did not hold him culpable, they felt they 
were all Hable to the same sad affliction ; and the Manito 
sending him a Deer, showed a mark of favor. As the strong 
affections of an Indian is centered in his children, for they 
may be said to be all he has to depend upon, they beHeve 
the dreadful distressed state of mind which necessity forces 
on them to take the life of one of their children to preserve 
the others, leaves such sad indelible impressions that the 
parents are never again the same [as] they were before, and 
are Hable to aberrations of mind. It is only on this Region 
and the Lakes westward to near the great plains, where there 
are Horses, that the Natives are subject to this distress of 


hunger, their Dogs are starved and do them very little good. 
If the country contained but half the Deer and other animals 
some writers speak of, the Natives would not suffer as they 
do. Notwithstanding the hardships the Natives sometimes 
suffer, they are strongly attached to the country of Rivers, 
Lakes, and Forests. 



Dinnae or Che-pazvyans — Origin of Name — Character — Hard 
lot of Women — Religion — Tradition as to Creation of Man- 
kind — Morals — Migration. 

HITHERTO my remarks have been on that portion 
of the great Stoney Region hunted on by the 
Nahathaway Indians ; the northern portion of this 
region, interior and north of Hudson's Bay to far westward 
is hunted upon, and claimed by a distinct race of Indians, 
whom, however dispersed, claim their origen and country to 
be, from ChurchiU River ^ at it's sortie into the sea ; and since 
the building of the Stone Fort, they call the place by the 
name of the Stone House.^ Their Native name, by which 
they distinguish themselves, is " Dinnae," to some hunting 
on a particular tract of country, an adjective is added. " Tza 
Dinnae " : Beaver Dinnae. Their southern neighbours, the 
Nahathaway's caU them " Chepawyans " (pointed skins), from 
the form in which they dry the Beaver skins. By the 
Hudson's Bay traders [they are called] " Northern Indians." 

^ The Churchill river is known to the Chipewyan Indians as the 
Tzan-d^z^ or Metal river, possibly on account of the quantity of iron 
and copper derived by them from a ship called Enhiorningen, which was 
left there by Jens Munck, after he had wintered in the harbour in the 
winter of i6ig-2o, when all but two of his men died of scurvy. 

2 Fort Prince of Wales. For an account of this " Stone Fort," see 
Samuel Hearne, A Journey from Prince of Wales's Fort in Hudson's Bay 
to the Northern Ocean, edited by J. B. Tyrrell, pp. 21-2. 


Their physiognomy is of an oval form, the skull convex, the 
chin pointed, the cheek bones raised, the nose prominent and 
sharp, the eyes black and small, forehead high, mouth and 
teeth good, hair black, long and lank, and of the men coarse. 
The countenance, though not handsome is manly ; [they are] 
tall in stature, of spare make, but capable of great fatigue ; 
they are a peaceable people, abhoring blood shed ; The 
Nahathaways look on them with a sort of contempt, being 
themselves too much inclined to war, they consider the 
Hunter to be naturally a Warrior; The Dinnae themselves 
give some occasion for this, in imitating what ceremonies 
they learn from them ; yet treating their women like slaves, 
a conduct which the Nahathaways detest ; When quarrelling 
the Dinnae never resort to Arms but settle the affair by 
wrestling, pulling hair, and twisting each other's necks. 
Although to their neighbours they are open to ridicule, yet 
not so to the white people, who encourage their peaceable 
habits, and themselves justly remark that a fine country, and 
plenty to eat, may encourage people to go to war on each 
other ; but the fatigue they go through in hunting make 
them glad to rest at night. Although they often suffer 
hunger, yet the steady frugality they strictly observe, 
never allows distress to come on their famiHes. Then- 
country has very large, and many lesser Lakes. When the 
land is scarce of Deer, or long calms come on, they take to 
the Lakes to angle Trout or Pike at which they are very 
expert, and although they use our hooks ; for large fish 
prefer their own, which are of bone, and a fish caught with 
their bone hook does not get loose, as sometimes happens to 
our hooks : Whether fish or meat, whatever is not required 
is carefully put by for next meal. They carefuUy collect 
every article that can be of use to them ; and when they 
remove, which they very often do, from place to place the 
women are very heavily loaded ; the men with little else 
than their gun and their fishing tackle, even a girl of eight 


years will have her share to carry ; while the Boys have some 
trifle, or only their Bows and Arrows. This hard usage 
makes women scarce among them, and by the time a girl is 
twelve years of age, she is given as a Wife to a man of twice 
her age, for the young men cannot readily obtain a wife, 
and on this account Polygamy is rare among them. The 
hardships the Women suffer, induces them, too often to let 
the female infants die, as soon as born ; and [they] look upon 
it as an act of kindness to them. And when any of us spoke 
to a woman who had thus acted ; the common answer was : 
" She wished her mother had done the same to herself." 
Upon reasoning with the Men, on the severe laborious Hfe of 
the women, and the early deaths it occasioned ; and that it 
was a disgrace to them ; and how very different the Nahath- 
aways treated their women ; they always intimated, they 
were an inferior order of mankind, made for the use of the 
Men ; the Nahathaways were a different people from, and 
they were not guided by, them ; and I found they v/ere too 
often regarded as the property of the strongest Man ; until 
they have one or more children ; I have been alone with them 
for months, and always found them a kind good people, but 
their treatment of the Women always made me regard them 
as an unmanly race of Men. Whether in distress, or in 
plenty, or in whatever state they may be I never saw any 
act of a religious tendency ; they make no feasts, have no 
dances, nor thanksgivings ; they appear to think every thing 
depends on their own abilities and industry, and have no 
belief in the greater part of the religious opinions of the 
Nahathaways ; from the regular migrations of the water fowl 
and the rein deer, they infer something of a Manito takes 
care of them, but neither does, nor can, prevent their kilHng 
them ; they believe in a future state, and that it is much the 
same as in this hfe ; they appear to have no high ideas of it, 
but somewhat better than the present ; they dread death as 
a great evil, but meet it with calmness and fortitude ; the 


wife of the deceased must mourn his loss for a year, her hair 
which is cut off and placed beside him when dead, is now 
allowed to grow, and she may become a Wife, but there is 
no restraint on the Men at the death of their wives ; they 
take a wife as soon as they can, and seldom allow a Widow 
woman to pass a year of mourning : They do not bury their 
dead, but leave them to be devoured ; this they might easily 
prevent by covering them with wood, or stones : which is 
sometimes done, and sometimes the dead is placed on a 
scaffold, but these instances are very rare ; Some of them 
have an ancient tradition that a Great Spirit descended on a 
rock, took a Dog, tore it to small pieces and scattered it, that 
these pieces each become a Man, or a Woman, and that these 
Men and Women are their original parents, from whom they 
have all come ; and thus the Dog is their common origin ; 
On this account they have very few dogs ; frequently several 
tents have not a Dog among them ; and they abhor the 
Dog Feasts of the Nahathaway's and of the French Canadians ; 
the latter regard a fat dog as a luxury, equal to a fat pig : 
Their morals are as good as can be expected, they exact 
chastity from their wives and seem to practise it themselves ; 
they are strictly honest ; and detest a thief ; and are as charit- 
able and humane to those in want, as circumstances will allow 
them. When the martial Tribes ^ by right of conquest over 
the Snake Indians, took possession of the Great Plains the 
Nahathaways occupied the lands thus left ; and from the 
rigorous clime of sixty one degrees north, went southward to 
fifty six degrees north ; the Dinnae, or Chepawyans, in Hke 

1 The martial tribes here spoken of are probably the Blackfeet, Bloods, 
and Piegan, though I do not know of any evidence to show that they ever 
occupied the wooded country north of the Saskatchewan river as here 
indicated by Thompson. The Chipewyans, however, have continued to 
move southward even in historic times, for about the time Thompson 
first reached Churchill they occupied the Barren Lands west of Hudson 
Bay as far north as Chesterfield Inlet, while at the present time they have 
retired southward to the edge of the woods, and their old haunts along the 
Kazan river are occupied by Eskimo. 


manner occupied the country down to the last named Lati- 
tude, and westward by the Peace River to the Rocky 
Mountains ; and have thus quietly extended themselves from 
the arctic regions to their present boundary, and will con- 
tinue to press to the southward as far as the Nahathaways 
will permit. 



Receive permission to explore the unknown country to the North- 
westward — Fairford House — Want of Men — Two Chepa- 
wyan Companions — The start — Rein Deer River — Rein 
Deer Lake — Trading Post — Manito Lake — Two Outlets — 
Character of Shores of Manito Lake — Black River — 
Hatchet Lake — Manito Falls — Second Black Falls — Atha- 
basca Lake — Hardships of the trip — Wreck — Destitute 
condition — Safe at last — Reach Fairford House. 

HAVING now given a sketch of the people among 
whom I am about to travel ; I have to return back 
a few years from my wintering place in Reed Lake, 
where I brought together that part of the Great Stony Region, 
and now enter on the northern part of this Region hunted 
on by the Natives I have described. 

Having requested permission of M"^ Joseph Colen, the 
Resident at York Factory, to explore the country north 
westward from the junction of the Rein Deer's River with 
the Missinippe (Great Waters) to the east end of the Atha- 
basca Lake a country then wholly unknown,^ I proceeded to 
Fairford House,^ for we must give titles to our Log Huts, 

* The journey here described had a larger significance than that here 
given to it by Thompson, for it was part of a scheme which he had been 
urging on the Hudson's Bay Company for some years to push westward 
and participate with the North-West Company in the trade of the Mac- 
kenzie river valley. See Introduction, pp. xxxiv.-xxxix. 

* Fairford House was situated on the bank of the Churchill (or Mis- 
sinipi) river, a mile below the mouth of Reindeer (or Deer) river, in 
latitude 53* 33' 28" N., longitude 103° 12' W, It was built by Malcolm 
Ross in Tygs, but seems to have been abandoned in 1796 in favour of 



where M"^ Malcolm Ross ^ had wintered, but not a single man 
could be spared from the trade in furrs to accompany me, 
and with great difficulty the Hudson's Bay Company then 
procured Men to keep up the few interior Trading Houses 
they then had ; for the War which raged between England 
and France drained the Orkney Islands of all the Men, that 
were fit for the Navy, or the Army ; and only those refused 
were obtained for the furr trade : There is always a Canoe 
with three steady men and a native woman waiting the 
arrival of the annual Ship from England to carry the Letters 
and Instructions of the Company to the interior country 
trading houses ; but very few men came out with her for the 
trade, and those few were only five feet five inches and under ; 
a M" James Spence was in charge of the Canoe, and his Indian 

Bedford House on the west side of Reindeer lake. It was doubtless 
named after the village of Fairford in Gloucestershire, though on whose 
account is not known. 

1 Malcolm Ross was a Scotsman who had entered the service of the 
Hudson's Bay Company, and had been among those first sent inland to 
the Saskatchewan valley. After the Hudson's Bay Company had been 
sending parties and supplies inland from York Factory for a number of 
years it became anxious to learn if a route could be opened up from 
Churchill directly up the Churchill river to its central trading post at 
Cumberland House, and in 1786 Ross was sent from Churchill to try 
to discover such a route. He succeeded in accomplishing the journey, 
probably by the Little Churchill river, Split lake, and Grass river, but 
reported that it was an exceedingly difficult one of no commercial value. 
The following year he returned to York, and, when a couple of years later 
the Company wished to send Philip Turnor westward as far as Lake 
Athabaska to make a survey of that lake and determine its position, 
Ross was sent with him to look after his supplies. From that time on- 
ward Ross's great object appears to have been to induce the Hudson's 
Bay Company to go into the Athabaska country and establish trading 
posts there, but in this he was not successful. In 1798 he visited England, 
probably with the object of urging on the directors of the Company 
more active measures for securing the Athabaska trade, and the following 
year he returned to the western country, but shortly after his arrival in 
Hudson Bay he died at Churchill. It was not until three years after his 
death, in 1802, that Peter Fidler was able to establish the first trading 
post of the Hudson's Bay Company on Lake Athabaska, on the site of the 
present Fort Chipewyan. 


wife looking steadily at the Men, and then at her husband ; 
at length said, James have you not always told me, that the 
people in your country are as numerous as the leaves on the 
trees, how can you speak such a falsehood, do not we all see 
plainly that the very last of them is come, if there were any 
more would these dwarfs have come here. This appeared a 
home truth, and James Spence had to be silent. Finding 
that I could have no white man to accompany me somewhat 
damped my ardor, but my curiosity to see unknown countries 
prevailed, and a few Chepawyans happening to be there ; 
and had traded their few furrs I engaged two young men of 
them to accompany me ; both of them had hunted for two 
winters over the country we were to explore, but had never 
been on the Rivers and Lakes in summer. Their only practice 
in canoes had been, on a calm day to watch for the Deer 
taking refuge in the Lakes from the flies, and for Otters and 
Fowls, which gave them no experience of the currents and 
rapids of Rivers ; yet such as they were, I was obhged to 
take them ; they were both unmarried young men ; One of 
them named Kozdaw,^ was of a powerful, active, make ; gay, 
thoughtless, and ready for every kind of service : would 
cHmb the trees, and brave the Eagles in their nests : yet 
under aU this wildness was a kind and faithful heart. The 
other from his hard name, which I could not pronounce, I 
named Paddy, he was of a slender form, thoughtful, of a mild 
disposition ; As nothing whatever was ready for us, we had 
to go into the Forests for all the materials to make a Canoe ; 
of seventeen feet in length by thirty inches on the middle bar. 
This House though well situated for trade ; had but a 
poor fishery with three Nets, each of fifty fathoms in length, 
we could barely maintain ourselves, the fish caught were 
White Fish, Pike and Carp, with a few Pickerel, none of 

^ When I surveyed the Black river in the summer of 1892, I gave the 
name of this Indian companion of Thompson to one of the smaller lakes 
on the stream. 


them very good. Fairford House is in Latitude 55°- 33'- 28" 
North, and Longitude 103°. 9'. 52" West of Greenwich, on 
the banks of the Missinippe (Great Waters)^ so called from 
the spreading of it's waters. It's southern head is the Beaver 
River from the Beaver Lake not far from the east foot of the 
Mountains, which, on entering the chain of Lakes, and the 
land of Rocks, spreads into very irregular forms of Lakes, 
which at distances are crossed by Dams of rock, and by 
channels falls into the same rude Lakes, to within one hundred 
miles of Churchill Factory, having for this last distance, the 
regular form of a River with many Rapids and Falls to within 
about ten miles of the sea where it meets the tide waters. 
The whole of the above distance from the valley of the chain 
of Lakes to the sea, is a poor country for Deer and the furr 
bearing animals ; and also for fish ; There are some very 
good fisheries, but they are in the deep Lakes of this Region 
wholly independent of the Missinippe, though the Streams 
from them are discharged into it. 

Early on the tenth day of June 1796 we were ready, our 
outfit consisted of one fowling gun ; forty balls, five pounds of 
shot, three flints and five pounds of powder, one Net of 
thirty fathoms ; one small Axe, a small Tent of grey cotton ; 
with a few trifles to trade provisions, as beads, brass rings 
and awls, of which we had little hopes ; our chief dependence 
next to good Providence, was on our Net and Gun. 

The sortie of the Rein Deer's River ; ^ which is the great 

^ Thompson constantly used the name Missinipi for the river now 
known throughout most of its length as the Churchill, though the longest 
of its upper branches is still known as Beaver river. In 1 798 he surveyed 
this river to its source near Lake La Biche (or Red Deer lake), where he 
built a trading post and spent the winter. 

* Reindeer river is a beautiful clear stream draining the waters of 
Reindeer lake southward into the Churchill river. At the confluence 
the waters of the two streams are very distinct, that of Reindeer 
river being beautifully clear and white in contrast to the dark brownish 
water of the Churchill river. The river has a length of seventy miles, 
in which distance it is obstructed by four rapids over rocky barriers of 


northern branch of Churchill River is about one mile above 
Fairford House ; and up this stream we proceeded in a north 
direction for sixty four miles to the Rein Deer's Lake ; 
Lat'''= 56 . 20 . 22 Long'** 103 . 18 . 47. The River is a fine deep 
stream, of about three hundred yards in width, having five 
falls and the same number of Carrying Places ; the FaUs 
have a descent of four to fourteen feet, with only one rapid. 
It's current is moderate from one to two miles p"" hour, and 
forms several small Lakes. The banks are of sloping high 
rocks, with several sandy bays ; the woods of small Birch, 
Aspin, and Pines, growing on the rocks with very little soil ; 
in many places none whatever : the Trees supported each 
other by the roots being interlaced in the same manner as 
the Trees are supported on the frozen lands of Hudson's 
Bay which never thaw ; and both are kept moist in summer by 
being covered with wet moss. 

The Natives are frequently very careless in putting out 
the fires they make, and a high wind kindles it among the 
Pines always ready to catch fire ; and [they] burn until stopped 
by some large swamp or lake ; which makes many miles of 
the country appear very unsightly, and destroys many animals 
and birds especially the grouse, who do not appear to know 
how to save themselves, but all this devastation is nothing 
to the Indian, his country is large. 

We proceeded along the west side of the Lake, in a direc- 
tion of due North, for one hundred and eight miles to a Point 
of tolerable good Pines, the best we had seen, and on which, 
late in Autumn we built a trading House. Latitude 57 . 23 . N. 
Longitude 102 . 59 W. 

The whole distance we have passed has a rocky barren 
appearance ; the woods small and stunted ; in several places 
the fire had passed. In the above distance the Paint River 
falls in, a considerable stream from the westward ; and also 
a few Brooks. The water is clear and deep, and the Lake 
is studded with Islands of rock, and dwarf Pines cover them. 


We proceeded up the Rivulet which we found shoal, 
with many rapids, and soon led us to Ponds and Brooks, 
with several Carrying Places, which connected them together 
for fifty miles, the last of which placed us on the banks of the 
Manito Lake. Latitude 57.47.38 N. Longitude 103. 17.12 W. 
The whole of this route can be passed in the open season 
only by small Canoes ; the country as usual poor and rocky ; 
Hitherto we had not met with a single Native, and our Gun 
and Net gave us but short allowance ; This Route is practised 
by the Natives to avoid the great length of the Rein Deer's 
and Manito Lakes, and the crossing of the great Bays of these 
Lakes, which would be dangerous to their small Canoes. 
This great Lake is called Manito^ (supernatural) from it's 
sending out two Rivers, each in a different direction ; from 
it's east side a bold Stream runs southward and enters the 
Rein Deers Lake on it's east side ; and from the west side of 
the Manito Lake, it sends out the Black River, which runs 
westward into the east end of the Athabasca Lake ; which 
is perhaps without a parallel in the world. Some have argued 
that such a Lake must soon be drained of its water ; they 
forget that it is the quantity of water that runs off, that 
drains a Lake ; and were the two Rivers that now flow in 
opposite directions made to be one River in a single direction, 
the effect on the Lake would be the same Add to this, the 
head of a River flowing out of a Lake is a kind of a Dam, 
and can only operate on the Lake in proportion to the depth 
to the bottom ; which in general is several hundred feet 

* On the present maps of Canada it is Wollaston lake. Thompson 
is quite correct in his statement that this lake has two outlets, which are 
of about equal size, one of which flows to the Mackenzie river and the 
other to the Churchill. The former he descended to Lake Athabaska, 
while the latter I surveyed in part in 1 894 and named the Cochrane river. 
The lake has an area of 900 square miles, and its water, like that of Rein- 
deer lake, is very clear and pure, as there is no soluble rock or mud on 
its shores. The pines here spoken of, and in fact throughout this narra- 
tive, are spruce, either black or white. Throughout all the northern 
country spruce trees are still spoken of as pines. 


below this bottom of the head of the River ; and were the 
River to drain the Lake to this level, the River would cease 
to flow but the Lake would still contain a great body of water. 

The last fifty miles had been over a low rocky, swampy- 
country, and tormented with myriads of Musketoes ; we were 
now on the banks of the Manito Lake, all around which, as 
far as the eye could see, were bold shores, the land rising 
several hundred feet in bold swells, all crowned with Forests 
of Pines ; in the Lake were several fine Isles of a rude conical 
form, equally well clothed with Woods. I was highly pleased 
with this grand scenery ; but soon found the apparent fine 
forests to be an illusion, they were only dwarf Pines growing 
on the rocks ; and held together by their roots being twisted 
with each other. On our route, seeing a fine Isle, which 
appeared a perfect cone of about sixty feet in height, appar- 
ently remarkably well wooded to the very top of the cone ; 
I went to it, my companions saying it was lost time ; on 
landing, we walked through the apparent fine forest, with our 
heads clear above aU the trees, the tallest only came to our 
chins ; While we were thus amusing ourselves, the Wind 
arose and detained us until near sunset. To while away the 
time, we amused ourselves with undoing the roots of these 
shrub Pines for about twenty feet on each side ; when the 
whole sHd down the steep rock into the Lake, making a float- 
ing Isle of an area of four hundred feet ; and so well the 
fibres of the roots were bound together, that when it came 
to where the waves were running high, it held together, not 
a piece separated and thus [it] drifted out of our sight. We 
set loose a second islet of about the same area ; then a third, 
and a fourth islet, all floated away in the same manner : On 
the Isle, the roots of these small pines were covered with a 
compact moss of a yellow color, about two inches thick. 

The mould on the rock under these pines, was very black 
and rich, but so scant, that had the area of four hundred feet 
been clean swept, it would not have filled a bushel measure. 


perhaps the produce of centuries. This Isle was a steep cone, 
the sixteen hundred square feet we uncovered, showed the 
rock to be as smooth as a file, and no where rougher than a 
rasp ; and had it been bare it would have been difficult of 
ascent ; it was about two miles from other land ; then how 
came these pines to grow upon it ; they bare no cones, nor 
seeds and no birds feed on them ; These wild northern 
countries produce questions, difficult to answer. 
t After coasting the west side of this Lake for Eighty miles 
Ji/v/e put up on the evening of the twenty third of June at the 
NC!j> head of the Black River ; which flows out of this Lake and 
0^*1' finally discharges itself into the east end of the Athabasca 
- ^ ..■■■.. Lake, which I found to be in Latitude 50° . 27' . 55" North ; 
and in Longitude 103°. 27'. i'' West of Greenwich Variation 
15° East. What I afterwards learned of the Indians on the 
geography of the Manito Lake confirmed my opinions of it ; 
By their information this Lake is of very great extent ; the 
eighty miles we coasted they counted as nothing ; they say 
that none of them has seen its northern extent, and of the 
east side, except the southern part. The deep, long rolling 
waves in a gale of wind, equal to any I have seen in Lake 
Superior, showed a very deep Lake and that the roll of the 
waves came from a great distance. 

It was always my intention to have fuUy surveyed this 
and the Rein Deer's Lake, but the sad misfortune which 
happened in the lower part of the Black River, made me 
thankfull to save our hves. That these countries are un- 
known, even to the natives, can excite no surprise ; their 
canoes are small and when loaded with their Wives, Children, 
and Baggage, are only fit for calm water, which is seldom seen 
on these Lakes ; The east side of these two Lakes, have a 
range of full six hundred miles, on which there are no Woods,^ 

* This would appear to refer to the Barren Grounds, some distance to 
the north of Reindeer and Manitou lakes, rather than the country to 
the east of them, for this latter country is within the forest area, and 


all is Rock and Moss ; on these barren lands, in the open 
season the Rein Deer are numerous ; they have food in 
abundance, and the constant cold nights puts down the flies. 

The Natives, when they hunt on the North East parts of 
the Rein Deer's Lake, cannot stay long ; the Moss, when 
dry, makes a tolerable fire ; but in wet weather, which often 
happens, it holds the rain hke a sponge, and cannot be made 
to burn ; this want of fire often obliges them to eat the meat 
raw, and also the fish ; the latter I have seen them by 
choice ; especially the pike, and a Trout is no sooner caught 
than the eyes are scooped out and swallowed whole, as most 
delicious morsels. 

Whatever Deer they may kill, they cannot dry the meat ; 
and as soon as they have eaten plentifully and procured as 
many skins as they can carry, they leave these lands of Moss, 
for those of Woods where they can have a comfortable fire, 
and get poles of pine wood to pitch their Tents for shelter. 

The Natives told me, when enquiring of the country to 
the eastward of the Manito Lake ; that two of them had 
been two day's journey direct eastward of the Lake, and saw 
nothing of woods, but everywhere rock and moss, with small 
Lakes, in which the Ducks were taking care of their young, 
and no other animal than a few herds of Rein Deer, and Musk 
Oxen ; ^ and it seems such is all the country between these 
great Lakes and Churchill River Factory and far to the 
northward. The Rein Deer's Lake^ contains an area of 18,400 

though the trees are mostly small, they are there in greater or less 
abundance. The east shore of Reindeer lake, along which I travelled in 
1894, was found to be all fairly well wooded. 

* Ovibos moschatus (Zimmerman). [E. A. P.] 

* Reindeer lake is one of the most picturesque of the many large 
lakes of northern Canada, with its shores of low rounded hills of granite, 
and its many rocky islands rising out of clear green water. It has an 
area of 2,400 square miles, a greatest length of 140 miles, and a greatest 
width of 35 miles, but on account of the irregularity of its shore line, and 
the great number of islands in it, no large part of the lake can be seen 
from any one place. The water is remarkably pure, an analysis made 
some years ago showing it to be one of the purest lake waters in the world. 


square miles : and the Manito Lake has an area of not less 
than about 30,000 square miles : From the head of the Black 
River to Churchill Factory is 339 statute miles, including 
the width of the Manito Lake, which may be reckoned at 
eighty miles, or more. It is a pity the Hudsons Bay Company 
do not have these countries explored ; by their charter they 
hold these extensive countries to the exclusion of all other 

By civiHsed men, especially those of the United States, 
who have a mortal antipathy to the North American Indian ; 
or, as he is now called the, " Red Man " ; it is confidently 
predicted, that the Red Man, must soon cease to exist, and 
give place to the White Man ; this is true of aU the lands 
formerly possessed by the Red Man, that the White Man has 
thought it worth his while to seize by fraud or force ; but 
the Stony Region is an immense extent of country, on which 
the White Man cannot live ; except by hunting, which he 
will not submit to. Here then is an immense tract of country 
which the Supreme Being, the Lord of the whole Earth, has 
given to the Deer, and other wild animals ; and to the Red 
Man forever, here, as his fathers of many centuries past have 
done, he may roam, free as the wind ; but this wandering 
life, and the poverty of the country, prevents the labors of 
the Missionary to teach them the sacred truths of Christianity. 

On the 25*'' day of June we descended the Black River ^ 

1 Black or Stone river flows westward from Wollaston lake into the 
east end of Lake Athabaska, at first through quiet pools, then over rocky 
granite ridges, and afterwards over a bed of rough boulders and pebbles 
of sandstone, where the water sometimes contracts into a narrow swift 
stream and then spreads out and almost loses itself among the stones. 
Such is its character until it flows into Black lake, but below Black lake 
it tumbles in two wild cascades with a combined height of 300 feet to the 
level of Lake Athabaska. Past these two falls the Indians from time 
immemorial have had well beaten paths or portages, respectively two and 
three and a half miles in length. As yet comparatively few white men 
have travelled this river, the list as far as known being as follows : David 
Thompson (1796) ; Peter Fidler (1807 ?) ; A. S. Cochrane (1881) ; J. B. 
Tyrrell (1892 and 1893). 


for nine miles to the Hatchet Lake.^ The River flows between 
two hills, in a valley with coarse grass on each side ; it is about 
twenty yards in width, and five feet in depth, and moderate 
current. The Hatchet Lake, has an area of about three 
hundred square miles, the banks rise to about three hundred 
feet apparently well wooded with Pines, but very few are 
above twenty feet in height, and full of branches. The whole 
is a wretched country of soHtude, which is broken only by 
the large GuU and the Loons. The first twelve miles of the 
River have several strong rapids and two carrying places, one 
of 204, the other of 298 yards. By observations the Lati- 
tude was 58°. 44'. 35" Longitude 103°. 56'. 28'' West near 
the north end of the Black Lake,^ which is a small Lake. 

The River had now increased it's water by the addition 
of the Porcupine and Trout Rivers, and several Brooks ; it 
had also a greater descent ; In it's course of One hundred 
and fifty three miles from the above place of observation in 
the Black Lake, it meets with, and forms, many small Lakes ; 
and collects their waters to form a Stream of about one, to 
two, hundred yards in width : it's bottom is sand and pebbles, 
or rude stones and small rocks, smoothed by the water ; on 
a bed of Limestone, which is the rock of the country ; its 
course is sinuous, from the many hills it meets, and runs 
round in it's passage ; it's current is strong, with many 
rapids, some of them one mile in length : it has four falls. 
Three of these are about half way down the River ; the fourth 
fall is the end of a series of rapids, cutting through a high 
hill ; at length the banks become perpendicular, and the 
river falls eight feet, the carrying place is six hundred yards 
in length. For half a mile further the current is very swift ; 
it is then for one hundred and eighteen yards, compressed in 

^ Hatchet lake, probably so called by Thompson himself, is a small 
lake on the Black river with an area of about 60 square miles. 

* This is a very small expansion of the Stone or Black river, which is 
now known as Kosdaw lake. 


a narrow channel of rock of only twelve yards in width. At 
the end of this channel a bold perpendicular sided point of 
limestone rock projects at right angles to the course of the 
river, against which the rapid current rushes and appears 
driven back with such force that the whole river seems as if 
turned up from it's bottom. It boils, foams and every drop 
is white ; part of the water is driven down a precipice of 
twenty feet descent ; the greater part rushes through the 
point of rock and disappears for two hundred yards ; then 
issues out in boiHng whirlpools. The dashing of the water 
against the rocks, the deep roar of the torrent, the hollow 
sound of the fall, with the surrounding high, dark frowning 
hills form a scenery grand and awful, and it is well named 
the Manito Fall. While the Nahathaways possessed the 
country, they made offerings to it, and thought it the resi- 
dence of a Manito ; they have retired to milder cHmates ; 
and the Chepawyans have taken their place who make no 
offerings to anything ; but my companions were so awe 
struck, that the one gave a ring, and the other a bit of 
tobacco. They had heard of this Fall, but never saw it before. 
The second Black Lake ^ is a fine sheet of water it's length 
about thirty miles in a west direction, it's breadth one to six 
miles ; in the east end there are five small isles and a large 
Island near the north shore. The north side of the Lake is a 
high hill, in some places abrupt cliffs of rock ; the south side 

^ This lake, which is still known as Black lake, lies at the junction of 
the Stone river from the east, the Cree river from the south, and the 
Chipman river from the north. It has a greatest length of 41 miles, a 
greatest width of 9 miles, a total area of 200 square miles, and an eleva- 
tion of 1000 feet above the sea. Its name seems to have been given to 
it by David Thompson, probably on account of the dark hills of Norite 
which form its north-western shore. By the Chipewyan Indians of Lake 
Athabaska it is called Dess-da-tara-tua, or, " The Mouths of Three Rivers 
Lake," alluding to the mouths of Cree, Stone, and Chipman rivers, 
which empty into it. Its northern shore is steep and rocky, being com- 
posed of granite or similar rocks, while its southern shore is low and sandy, 
and a great sand plain stretches away to the south of it. 


is more pleasing, it's fine sandy beaches, the banks with small 
Aspins and Birch in full leaf ; the ground firm and dry, 
covered with Bear's Berries,^ the leaf of which is mixed with 
tobacco for smoking, the interior rising by easy ascents, and 
apparently well wooded formed a pleasing landscape to us, 
who had so long been accustomed to rude scenery ; it is the 
only place which had an appearance of being fit for cultiva- 
tion ; but it was appearance only ; the woods were small, 
even the Pines rarely rose to the height of twenty feet ; and 
the soil was too sandy. The area of this Lake may be about 
one hundred and twenty miles. This Lake appears to be the 
principal haunts of the species of Deer which I have already 
described ; and which I beUeve to be yet a nondescript. 

The Nahathaways, who pay great attention to distinguish 
every species of Beast and Bird from each, do not class them 
with the Rein Deer, and call them Mahthe Moosewah.'^ (the 
Ugly Moose). This is the only Lake in which I have seen 
them, and the Natives say they are not numerous, and are 
confined to this Lake and its environs ; A civiUzed man may 
never travel this way again ; there is nothing to tempt him ; 
a rude barren country that has neither provisions nor furrs, 
and there are no woods of which he could build a warm hut ; 
and at best his fuel, of which a large quantity is required, 
could be only of small poles, which would burn away, almost 
as fast as he could cut them. In the winter the Natives do 
not frequent these countries but hunt to the westward. 

On the North side, the Black River rushes through a 
low mountain in a long cataract, on the south side is a carrying 
place of 5560 yards of open woods, the ground level and sandy, 
from hence we went three miles to a heavy Fall in several 
precipices of full forty feet. The carrying place is one mile 
in length, the banks high and steep, and the path bad from 
much fallen wood, and rocky ground, at the end of which 

* Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 
2 Probably a large form of Woodland Caribou. See note, p. 102. 



we had to descend a high steep bank of loose earth and 
gravel : one fourth of a mile lower was another fall, and 
carrying place of half a mile, we then proceeded eight miles 
to a long heavy rapid, six miles farther the Black River enters 
the east end of the Athabasca Lake,^ the end of our journey 
in Latitude 50°. 16'. 22" N. Longitude 105°. 26' West on the 
2°*^ of July. ''''This great Lake had been surveyed by M' 
Philip Turnor^ in 1791. He had marked and lopped a pine 
tree at which we passed the night. From the Manito to the 

^ Lake Athabaska is a long and comparatively narrow sheet of water, 
extending westward from the mouth of Black river to where the Atha- 
baska-Mackenzie river drains the country towards the north. It lies in 
the bottom of a great valley excavated along the line of contact of the 
Archaean granites, etc., to the north, and the undisturbed Athabaska 
sandstone to the south. On its south side is a great sandy plain, rising 
at its east end to a height of 500 feet above the lake, and gradually sloping 
westward towards the Athabaska-Mackenzie valley. It has a greatest 
length of 195 miles, a greatest width of 35 miles, a shore line of 425 miles, 
an area of 2,850 square miles, and an altitude of 690 feet above the sea. 

2 Comparatively little is as yet known of Philip Tumor. The first 
published reference to him that I can find is where Henry Roberts, in giving 
the authorities for his map (Cook's Third Voyage, Introduction, p. Ixxi), 
refers to " the discoveries from York to Cumberland and Hudson House 
(this last is the most western settlement belonging to the Company), 
extending to Lake Winnipeg, from the draft of Mr. Philip Turner, cor- 
rected by astronomical observations." "The Albany and Moose Rivers 
to Gloucester House and to Lake Abbitibbe and Superior," says Roberts, 
" are also drawn from a map of Mr. Turner's, adjusted by observations 
for the longitudes." From Roberts's map, it appears that Tumor had 
gone inland from York Factory by the Nelson and Grass rivers, and had 
returned by Lake Winnipeg and the Hayes river route, or vice versa, for 
these are the only routes indicated. Neither the Churchill river nor the 
Nelson river between Split lake and Lake Winnipeg is shown on this map. 
These journeys inland were probably first made in company with Samuel 
Hearne, when, in 1774, he went from York Factory, and established Cum- 
berland House on Pine Island lake, an enlargement of the Saskatchewan 

In 1776, according to Thompson, Turnor ascended the Saskatchewan 
river from Cumberland House, and built Hudson House, on the North 
Saskatchewan river, a short distance above the present site of Prince 

In 1779 Tumor was at Severn Factory, under Matthew Cocking ; and 
on September 28 of that year he left there in the sloop Severn, of which 


Athabasca Lake, by the course of the Black River, and it's 
Lakes is 162 miles, of varied country, but the further west- 
ward the better. And the bold, high, sloping, woody hills of 
the Athabasca Lake had something soft and pleasing. This 
journey was attended with much danger, toil and suffering, 
for my guide knew nothing of the river, it's rapids and falls, 
haveing merely crossed it in places in hunting. We were 
always naked below the belt, on account of the rapids, from 
the rocks, shoals, and other obstructions we had to hand them, 
that is, we were in the water, with our hands grasping the 

John Tumor, his brother, was master, and arrived at Moose Factory on 
October 21. 

On December 15, he left Moose for Albany, where he remained with 
Thomas Hutchins throughout the winter and until the following September. 
During this time he probably made his survey of the Albany river up to 
Gloucester House on Washi lake, and probably also of the Kenogami and 
Kabinakagami rivers, which form together a southern branch of the 
Albany river, to " Capoonacaumistic " (Kabinakagami) lake and Lake 
Superior. On December 19, 1780, E. Jarvis, then in charge at Moose, sent 
him back to Albany for some trading supplies. He returned on January 12, 
1 781, having made on the way a survey of the intervening portion of the 
coast of Hudson Bay. On May 11, he set out on a trip by canoe up the 
Moose and Missinaibi rivers, past Wappiscoggamy House (Old Brunswick 
House) to Missinaibi lake and thence to Lake Superior at Michipicoten 
Harbour. On July 13, he was again back at Moose. 

In the summer of 1782 he made a survey of Lake Abitibi, After 
completing this survey, he was appointed to take charge of Brunswick 
House on the Missinaibi river; and it is recorded that in 1783 he was 
too ill to descend the river to Moose Factory, and was consequently unable 
to attend the meeting of the Council there. For several years after this, 
he remained at Brunswick House ; then he descended to Moose Factory, 
where he assumed the position of second in charge. 

On September 9, 1787, he sailed for England in the sloop Beaver. He 
appears to have returned to York Factory in 1 789, and from there to have 
proceeded to Cumberland House. In this journey he was accompanied 
by Peter Fidler, then a young man of twenty years of age, while David 
Thompson came down from the west to join them. Tumor probably 
spent the next two winters at Cumberland House. During this time he 
taught David Thompson and Peter Fidler the principles of geography 
and the methods of surveying, and so laid the foundation of the know- 
ledge of much of the geography of north-western America. 

In the spring of 1791, Tumor, accompanied by Malcolm Ross, left 
Cumberland House for Lake Athabaska. On June i, at Bufifalo lake. 


canoe, and leading it down the rapids. The bed of the river 
is of rough or round loose stones, and gravel, our bare feet 
became so sore that we descended several rough rapids at 
great risque of our lives. On the 25''' June we came to 
three tents of Chepawyan Indians of iive families ; they were 
clean, comfortable, and everything in good order. As usual, 
they received us in a hospitable manner, we put up for the 
night, and staid next day until past Noon to refresh ourselves 
and I obtained an observation for Latitude. They were hunt- 
ing and Hving on the large species of Deer, the Mahthe 
Moose, the meat was fat and good, they told me the habits 
of this species are utterly different from the common wander- 
ing Rein Deer, it's meat far superior, and in size nearly twice 
that of the common Deer, their eyesight much better, and 
the hunting of them almost as difficult as that of the Moose 
Deer, of which there are none in these parts. 

On our return, about half way up the black river, we came 
to one of the falls, with a strong rapid both above and below 
it, we had a carrying place of 200 yards, we then attempted 
the strong current above the fall, they were to track the 
canoe up by a Hne, walking on shore, while I steered it, when 
they had proceeded about eighty yards, they came to a 

he met Alexander Mackenzie going to England to study astronomy and 
geology, in order that he might be better prepared to make a proper 
survey of the route which he intended to explore from Lake Athabaska 
to the Pacific ocean. Alexander Mackenzie gave Tumor a letter to his 
cousin, Roderick Mackenzie, at Lake Athabaska, asking him to show- 
Tumor the fullest hospitality ; but had he appreciated fully the character 
of the man whom he had thus casually met in a canoe on the Churchill 
river, he might possibly have turned back, and studied under him. Tumor 
made a survey of Lake Athabaska, and doubtless also of the route from 
Cumberland House to it. The winter of 1791-92 he spent with Roderick 
Mackenzie at Fort Chipewyan ; and the following year he apparently 
returned to England. 

As late as 1795 he was in communication with the directors of the 
Hudson's Bay Company in London, but that is the last that has been 
learned of him. 

Whatever else may become known of him. Tumor's greatest distinction 
will always be that he was Thompson's tutor. 


Birch Tree, growing at the edge of the water, and there 
stood and disputed between themselves on which side of the 
tree the tracking line should pass. I called to them to go 
on, they could not hear me for the noise of the fall, I then 
waved mv hand for them to proceed, meanwhile the current 
was drifting me out, and having only one hand to guide the 
canoe, the Indians standing still, the canoe took a sheer across 
the current, to prevent the canoe upsetting, I waved my 
hand to them to let go the line and leave me to my fate, 
which they obeyed. I sprang to the bow of the canoe took 
out my clasp knife, cut the line from the canoe and put the 
knife in my pocket, by this time I was on the head of the 
fall, all I could do was to place the canoe to go down bow 
foremost, in an instant the canoe was precipitated down the 
fall (twelve feet), and buried un(^er the waves, I was struck 
out of the canoe, and when I arose among the waves, the 
canoe came on me and buried [me] beneath it, to raise myself 
I struck my feet against the rough bottom and came up close 
to the canoe which I grasped, and being now on shoal water, 
I was able to conduct the canoe to the shore. My two com- 
panions ran down the beach to my assistance ; nothing re- 
mained in the canoe but an axe, a small tent of grey cotton, 
and my gun : also a pewter basin. When the canoe was 
hauled on shore I had to lay down on the rocks, wounded, 
bruised, and exhausted by my exertions. The Indians went 
down along the shore, and in half an hours time returned 
with my box, Hned with cork, containing my Sextant and a 
few instruments, and papers of the survey Maps &c. and our 
three paddles. We had no time to lose, my all was my shirt 
and a thin linen vest, my companions were in the same 
condition, we divided the small tent into three pieces to 
wrap round ourselves, as a defence against the flies in the 
day, and something to keep us from the cold at night, for the 
nights are always cold. On rising from my rocky bed, I 
perceived much blood at my left foot, on looking at it, I 


found the flesh of my foot, from the heel to near the toes 
torn away, this was done when I struck my feet against the 
rough bottom to rise above the waves of the fall of water. 
A bit of my share of the tent bound the wound, and thus 
barefooted I had to walk over the carrying places with their 
rude stones and banks. The Indians went to the woods and 
procured Gum of the Pines to repair the canoe, when they 
returned, the question was how to make a fire, we had neither 
steel, nor flint, I pointed to the gun from which we took 
the flint. I then produced my pocket knife with it's steel 
blade, if I had drawn a ghost out of my pocket it would not 
more have surprized them, they whispered to each other, 
how avaricious a white man must be, who rushing on death 
takes care of his Httle knife, this was often related to other 
Indians who all made the same remark. I said to them if I 
had not saved my Httle knife how could we make a fire, you 
fools go to the Birch Trees and get some touchwood, which 
they soon brought, a fire was made, we repaired our canoe, 
and carried all above the Fall and the rapid, they carried the 
canoe, my share was the gun, axe, and pewter basin ; and 
Sextant Box. Late in the evening we made a fire and warmed 
ourselves. It was now our destitute condition stared us in 
the face, a long journey through a barren country, without 
provisions, or the means of obtaining any, almost naked, and 
suffering from the weather, all before us was very dark, but 
I had hopes that the Supreme Being through our great 
Redeemer to whom I made my short prayers morning and 
evening would find some way to preserve us ; on the second 
day, in the afternoon we came on a small lake of the river, 
and in a grassy bay we saw two large GuUs hovering, this 
lead us to think they were taking care of their young, we went, 
and found three young gulls, which we put in the canoe, it 
may here be remarked, the Gull cannot dive, he is too Hght ; 
these gulls gave us but a Httle meat. They had not four 
ounces of meat on them. It appeared to sharpen hunger. 


The next day as we proceeded, I remembered an Eagles 
Nest on the banks of a small Lake before us. I enquired of 
my companions if the young eagles could fly, they said, they 
are now large but cannot yet fly, why do you enquire, I said, 
do you not remember the Eagle's Nest on a Lake before us, 
we shall be there by mid day, and get the young eagles for 
supper, accordingly we came on the Lake and went to the 
Eagles Nest, it was about sixteen feet from the ground, in 
the spreading branches of a Birch tree, the old ones were 
absent, but Kozdaw was barely at the nest before they arrived, 
and Paddy and myself, with shouts and pelting them with 
stones, with difficulty prevented the Eagles ^ from attacking 
Kozdaw, he soon threw the two young eagles down to us, 
they placed themselves on their backs, and with beak and 
claws fought for their lives, when apparently dead, Kozdaw 
incautiously laid hold of one of them, who immediately 
struck the claws of one foot deep into his arm above the 
wrist. So firm were the claws in his arm, I had to cut off 
the leg at the first joint above the claws, even then when we 
took out a claw, it closed in again, and we had to put bits of 
wood under each claw until we got the whole out. 

We continued our journey to the evening, when as usual 
we put ashore, and made a fire, on opening the young eagles 
their insides appeared a mass of yellow fat, which we collected, 
and with the meat, divided into three equal portions : Paddy 
and myself eat only the inside fat, reserving the meat for 
next day, but we noticed Kozdaw, roasting the meat ; and 
oihng himself with the fat : in the night we were both 
awakened by a violent dysentry from the effects of the eagles 
fat, Kozdaw now told us that such was always the effects of 
the inside fat of the fishing Eagle (the bald headed) and also 
of most birds of prey that Hve on fish, Paddy bitterly re- 
proached him for allowing us to eat it, we had to march all 
day in this state, in the evening, I filled the pewter basin 

1 Haliceetus I. alascanus Townsend. [E. A. P.] 


with Labrador Tea/ and by means of hot stones made a 
strong infusion, drank it as hot as I could, which very much 
relieved me. Paddy did the same with like effect. We con- 
tinued our voyage day after day, subsisting on berries, mostly 
the crowberry, which grows on the ground ; and is not 
nutritious. To the sixteenth of July ; both Paddy and 
myself were now like skeletons, the effects of hunger, and 
dysentry from cold nights, and so weak, that we thought it 
useless to go any further but die where we were. Kozdaw 
now burst out into tears, upon which we told him that he 
was yet strong, as he had not suffered from disease. He re- 
plied, if both of you die, I am sure to be killed, for everyone 
will believe that I have killed you both, the white men will 
revenge your death on me, and the Indians will do the same 
for him ; I told him to get some thin white birch rind, and 
I would give him a writing, which he did, with charcoal I 
wrote a short account of our situation, which I gave him, 
upon which he said now I am safe. However we got into 
the canoe, and proceeded slowly, we were very weak, when 
thank God, in the afternoon we came to two tents of Chepa- 
wyans, who pitied our wretched condition ; they gave us 
broth, but would allow us no meat until the next day : I 
procured some provisions, a flint and nine rounds of 
ammunition, and a pair of shoes for each of us on credit, to 
be paid for when they came to trade, also an old kettle ; we 
now proceeded on our journey with thanks to God, and 
cheerful hearts. We killed two Swans, and without any 
accident on the 21^' July arrived at Fairford House from 
whence we commenced our Journey. From this time to the 
26"" August, our time was spent in fishing and hunting, and 
with all our exertions we could barely maintain ourselves. 
During this time seventeen Loons got entangled in the Nets, 
a few were drowned, but the greater part alive : the Loon 
is at all times a fierce bird, and all these with beak and claws 

1. Ledum green landicmn CEder. [E. A. P.] 


fought to the last gasp. I have often taken one, out of the 
Net, aHve and placed it in the yard, and set the dogs on it, 
but it fought so fiercely, screaming all the time, the dogs 
would not attack it. They Hve wholly on fish, which gives 
their flesh so strong a taste that few can eat them, especially 
if they feed on trout, those that live on Carp, White Fish, 
Pickerel and Pike have a better taste, but always bad ; they 
lay only two, or three eggs, which when boiled are of a yellowish 
color, veined with black, and are not eatable. They are most 
expert fishers, though seldom fat ; and often gorge them- 
selves, [so] that they cannot fly ; but they are expert divers, 
and have the power of sinking their body so that only their 
head is above water, and at will maintaining it ; their dive 
is generally forty to fifty yards, and but a little below the 
surface. On the land he is helpless, can neither walk, nor 
fly, but [is] quite at home in the water. 

On the iG^ August M' Malcolm Ross, with four small 
Canoes loaded with Goods arrived from York Factory, each 
carrying about six hundred pounds weight. We left this 
house and proceeded up the Rein Deer's River to the Lake, 
and to near the head of the Rivulet, where was a point of 
tolerable Pines, near the middle of the Lake, on the west 
bank, which by numerous observations I found to be in 
Latitude 57°. 23' N Longitude 102°. 58'. 35" West of Green- 
wich Variation 15 degrees east. We builded Log Huts to pass 
the winter, the chimneys were of mud and coarse grass, but 
somehow did not carry off the smoke, and the Huts were 
wretched with smoke, so that however bad the weather, we 
were glad to leave the Huts.^ 

1 The trading post built by Thompson on the west shore of Reindeer 
lake was called by him Bedford House. In it he and Malcolm Ross 
spent the winter of 1796-97, one of the coldest winters ever known in wes- 
tern Canada. The exact position of the post has not been determined, 
but it cannot have been far from the island which I called Thompson 
island in making a survey of the lake in 1892. 



Build a Trading Post at Rein Deer Lake — Winter at Rein 
Deer Lake — Intense Cold — Formation of ice in ijgS — 
Aurora — Aurora as souls of the dead — Fishing — Hunting — 
Moss — Insects — Chepawyan Travelling — Property in 
Women — History of a quarrel — Immortality — Angling — 
Origen of the Chepawyan archery. 

OUR whole dependence for food was on our set nets, 
and what little Deer's meat the Chepawyans might 
bring us. The fishery during the short open season 
was somewhat successful for white fish, but they were not of 
the best quaHty ; but when the Lake became frozen over as 
usual the Fish shifted their ground, and all we could procure 
was a bare subsistence. Winter soon set in, the most severe 
I ever experienced ; I had for some years been accustomed 
to keep Meteorological Journals, my Thermometers were 
from Dolland one of Spirits, and one Quicksilver ; each 
divided to forty two degrees below Zero, being seventy four 
degrees below freezing point ; I had long suspected that in 
extreme cold, as the Spirits approached the bulb, it required 
two or three degrees of cold, to make the Thermometer 
decend one degree ; I therefore wrote to Mr Dolland, to 
make me a large Thermometer divided to upwards of one 
hundred degrees below zero. He sent me a Thermometer of 
red colored spirits of wine, divided to no degrees below 
zero, or 142 degrees below the freezing point, (zero is 
32 degrees below the freezing point). The month of October 



was many degrees below the freezing point, and on the 
17"' day the snow remained on the ground. On November 
the 10''' the Thermometer was 10*' below zero; on the ii'** 
day 27° below Zero, the iz''' day 12°, the 13 day 15° degrees; 
on the 14'^ day 25° degrees ; on the 15*^ day 28 degrees below 
zero. And this great deep Lake of 230 miles in length, by 80 to 
100 miles in width was entirely frozen over. In the course of 
the winter, the ice of the Lake became five to six feet thick. 
On the following year, the first water seen along shore was on 
the 5'^ day of July. On the 7*^ day, a gale of wind shook 
the ice to pieces, and the" whole disappeared, scarce a frag- 
ment [remained] on the shore after being frozen over for 
7f months. 

I may here remark that my hard life, obHging me to cut 
holes in the ice for angHng for fish, at all seasons while the 
Lake was frozen over, has led me to notice a curious operation 
of nature, the ice of these great Lakes, without any current 
in them, is very Httle thawed on the surface by the action of 
mild weather, the Httle that is softened in the day, the night 
makes soHd ice, it is the water beneath the ice, that makes 
it decay : when the mild season comes, the ice is gradually 
worn away by the action of the water ; often in making holes 
for angling, while the surface appeared soHd as [in] winter, 
my ice chissel soon went through ; on taking up a piece of 
about one square foot, the soHd ice may be four inches thick. 
The rest was what we call candles, that is, icicles of fifteen to 
eighteen inches, or more in length, each distinct from the 
other, it is thus that nature prepares the ice to be broken up 
by a strong gale of wind ; In the morning of the 7'** July 
the Lake had the appearance of winter, in the afternoon [it 
was] as clear of ice, as if it had never been frozen over. A 
Gale of wind had left nothing but icicles on the shore. 

Although during November the cold was intense, yet not 
so much so as to prove the Thermometers, 1795 on the 
15*'' December the large Thermometer fell to 42 below 


zero, but the other showed only 40 degrees, and that of 
Quicksilver fell into the bulb, which was only four fifths 
fuU. On the morning of the 18'^ December, by the large 
Thermometer it was 56 degrees below zero, the small spirit 
Thermometer stood at 41° degrees, and it appeared no degree 
of cold could make it descend into the bulb ; the quicksilver in 
the bulb appeared to fill only two thirds of the bulb : it may 
be remarked that for four days previous to this great degree 
of cold, the Thermometer was at 35 degrees, 37, 44 and 46 
degrees below zero. On the 18'^ December at 8 am the 
Thermometer was 56 ; at Noon 44 ; and at 9 pm 48 degrees 
below zero. It was a day of most intense cold, the ice on the 
Lake was spHtting in all directions, the smoke from the 
chimneys fell in lumps to the ground. These intense colds 
gave me frequent opportunities of freezing quicksilver ; I 
often attempted to beat it out into thin plates Hke lead, but 
however cautiously I proceeded, the edges were all fractured, 
and a few quick blows with the hammer, however light, 
would liquefy it. 

Hitherto I have said little on the Aurora Borealis of the 
northern countries ; at Hudson's Bay they are north west- 
ward, and only occasionally brilliant. I have passed four 
winters between the Bay and the Rein Deer's Lake, the more 
to the westward, the higher and brighter is this electric fluid, 
but always westward ; but at this, the Rein Deer's Lake, as 
the winter came on, especially in the months of February 
and March, the whole heavens were in a bright glow. We 
seemed to be in the centre of it's action, from the horizon in 
every direction from north to south, from east to west, the 
Aurora was equally bright, sometimes, indeed often, with a 
tremulous motion in immense sheets, sHghtly tinged with the 
colors of the Rainbow, would roll, from horizon to horizon. 
Sometimes there would be a stillness of two minutes ; the 
Dogs howled with fear, and their brightness was often such 
that with only their Hght I could see to shoot an owl at twenty 


yards ; in the rapid motions of the Aurora we were all 
perswaded we heard them, reason told me I did not, but it 
was cool reason against sense. My men were positive they 
did hear the rapid motions of the Aurora, this was the eye 
deceiving the ear ; I had my men blindfolded by turns, and 
then enquired of them, if they heard the rapid motions of 
the Aurora. They soon became sensible they did not, and 
yet so powerful was the Illusion of the eye on the ear, that 
they still believed they heard the Aurora. What is the cause 
that this place seems to be in the centre of the most vivid 
brightness and extension of the Aurora : from whence this 
immense extent of electric fluid, how is it formed, whither 
does it go. Questions without an answer. I am well 
acquainted with all the countries to the westward. The 
farther west the less is this Aurora. At the Mountains it is 
not seen. 

I have said our livelihood depended on fishing and hunting. 
Part of the fishery was angling for large trout, ^ they are not 
to be taken but in deep water, from 20 to 40 fathoms, or 
more, for this fish, hooks are not used ; but the Chepawyan 
method adopted : the first thing done is making one, or more 
holes in the ice with the ice chissel, which is a small bar of 
iron of two pounds weight, at one end flat, at the other end 
a chissel of an inch in width, the greater part of this is in- 
serted in a groove of a strong pole of birch of full six feet in 
length, the chissel end projecting about five inches ; with 
this, a hole is quickly made in the ice of any dimensions, 
without the person in the least wetting himself, the axe is 
never used. A sounding line is now used to ascertain the 
depth of water, which must not be less than twenty fathoms, 
as large trout are found only in deep water. The set line is 
now carefully measured, with a coil of five fathoms neatly 
made up with a slip knot [it] is attached to the bait, [which] 
is the half of a white fish, the head part only, as the trout 
^ Cristivomer namaycush (Walbaum). [E. A. P.] 


always takes the white fish head foremost, a small round stick 
of birch well dried and hardened by the fire, but not burnt, 
is slightly attached to the under part of the bait, about six 
inches in length, the line is fixed about one third below the 
head of the bait, this is placed as near as possible about six 
feet above the bottom. The trout takes the bait, the slip 
knot of five fathoms of Hne gives way, which enables him to 
swallow the bait, at the end of which he is brought up with a 
jerk, which causes the piece of wood to become vertical in 
his mouth, his jaws are extended and we often find him 
drowned, a strange death for a fish. In angling for trout, 
everything is the same, the fish caught alive are better than 
those drowned, whether by a set line or in a net ; the weight 
of the trout was from twenty five to forty five pounds, I 
have heard of trout fifty five pounds ; they are very rich fish, 
make a nutritious broth, and pound for pound are equal to 
good beef. One day as usual, I had pierced the ice with new 
holes, or cleaned out the old holes with an ice racket, [when] 
an old Chepawyan Indian came to me, I told him I had five 
holes in the ice, and for these two days had caught nothing. 
He shook his head, left me and went about one hundred 
yards westward of me, we were about five miles from land, 
he then looked at all the land within sight, shifted his place 
until all his marks coincided, he then pierched a hole thro' 
the ice, put down his angling tackle, and in about an hours 
time brought up a fine trout of full thirty pounds. By 
one PM he caught another, rather larger, soon after which 
he gave over, put up his tackle and came to me, I had caught 
nothing ; he asked to see my bait which I showed to him, it 
was Hke his, he noticed that it was not greased, he showed 
his bait which was well greased, and taking out a little bag, 
a piece of grease with which he greased the bait twice a day ; 
he told me I must do the same. He remarked to me that I 
came too soon, and staid too late ; that the trout took bait 
only for a while after sunrise to near sunset, but that about 


noon was the best time ; it has always appeared strange to 
me that a Trout in forty fathoms water, with a covering 
of full five feet thickness of ice, on a dark cloudy day, should 
know when the sun rises and sets but so it is. I followed 
the Chepawyan's advice, and was more successful. 

In hunting, we had but Httle success, and killed only a 
few Rein Deer. On fine days small herds would go out on the 
Lake some four miles from land, and lie down for a few hours 
on the ice as if to cool themselves ; one fine cold day M"" 
Ross and myself killed a Doe, our hands were freezing, we 
opened her, and put our hands in the blood to warm them, 
but the heat of the blood was like scalding water which we 
could not bear. Both of us were accustomed to hunting 
and knew the heat of the blood of many animals, we were 
surprised, we examined the stomach, it was full of white 
moss. I tasted it, and swallowed a little, it was warm in my 
stomach. I then traced the Deer to where they had been 
feeding, it was on a white crisp moss in a circular form, of 
about ten inches diameter, each division distinct, yet close 
together. I took a small piece, about the size of a nutmeg, 
chewed it, it had a mild taste. I swallowed it, and it became 
Hke a coal of fire in my stomach. I took care never to repeat 
the experiment : It is by food of this warm nature, that the 
Animals and Birds of the cold regions are not only enabled to 
bear the intense cold, but find it warm. 

What is the heat imparted to the blood, by each kind of 
food ; from the water melon, and wild rice to the Rein 
Deer Moss. 

This solved to me the excessive heat of the blood of the 
Rein Deer, on this Lake only I have found this moss. I 
have tasted all the mosses of Lake Superior and many other 
Lakes, but have found nothing of the same. Is this moss 
then peculiar to the northern barren countries of rock and 
moss, that the food of the Rein Deer and Musk Oxen shall 
make the temperature of fifty to seventy degrees below the 


freezing point as the month of April is to our cattle ; it 
appears so. 

M"" Ross and myself several times, when we went a hunting, 
took a Thermometer with us to ascertain the heat of the 
blood of the Rein Deer, but it so happened, when we had a 
Thermometer with us, we killed no Deer, and therefore 
could not know the heat of the blood. The Stomach, or 
Paunch, of the Rein Deer is taken out of the animal, the 
orifice tied up, and then for three days hung in the smoke, 
but not near the fire. It is now sour, bits of meat and fat 
are mixed with the contents, it is then boiled, and all those 
who have eaten of it say it is an agreeable, hearty food. 

In the spring of the year, as the snow begins occasionally 
to thaw, myriads of a small black insect^ make their appear- 
ance, so numerous, that the surface of the snow is black with 
them, they are about one twentieth of an inch in length, of 
a compact make, they cover the sides of Lakes, and Rivers ; 
snow shoe paths, and other places ; they come with the first 
thaw of the snow, and disappear with the snow. The ques- 
tion is, from whence are these myriads of insects which are 
seen on the snow, they cannot come from the ground, pene- 
trate three feet of hard snow, they are never found below the 
surface of the snow. How do they Hve, upon what do they 
live. Upon examining the edges of the ice, as it began to 
thaw, I saw a great number of insects something Hke those 
in the snow, they were rather larger, the head had two 
feelers, the body increased in size to the end, where it was 
round. They had two legs, some were dead, others dormant. 
Those that were fully alive and active, upon my touching 
them with my finger, made a leap of about an inch into an 
almost invisible crevice of the ice, and there remained. The 
native name is Oopinarnartarwewuk, jumping insects. From 
whence come so suddenly these myriads of insects on the 

* Snow Fleas, Achorutes. [E. A. P.] 


surface of the snow, and edges of the ice ; and in such 
myriads ; and only on the snow and ice, and each has a 
distinct insect. 

My residence on the Rein Deer's Lake which has become 
the country of the Chepawyans ; gave me an insight into the 
morals and manners of these people which I had not before. 
I have already noticed the treatment of the Women and 
every thing that passed this Winter confirmed it ; during 
this season many of them came in to trade ; the bank of the 
Lake to the House, was a low regular slope ; seing a Woman 
carrying a heavy child, and hauling a long, loaded sled ; as 
she came to the bank, I desired one of the Men, who was 
remarkable for his great strength to assist her, she gave the 
trace to him : thinking a Woman could not haul any weight 
worth notice, he carelessly put two fingers to the trace of 
the Sled, but could not move it ; he had at length to employ 
all his strength to start the Sled, and haul it to the House : 
the Sled and load weighed about one hundred and sixty 
pounds : among them was a little girl of about six years of 
age. She had her sled, and hauled on it, a brass Kettle that 
held four gallons : The Boys had a Hght Sled, or carried a 
few pounds weight, the Men had little else than their Guns ; 
such is the order when removing from place to place during 
the winter ; Those who make use of Canoes during the 
summer, and they are now almost in general use, place the 
women in far more easy circumstances, and the Men take 
their share of paddling the canoes ; loading and unloading 
them ; but in fact the Women are considered as the drudges 
of the Men. 

The Women, until they have children appear to be the 
property of the strongest Man, that has no woman : One 
day in the latter end of February, a Chepawyan called the 
Crane and his Wife came to the House, he was well named, 
tall, thin, and active, he at times hunted for us. His wife 
was a good looking young Woman, they appeared to love 


each other but had no children. Six, or seven of us were 
sitting in the guard room talking of the weather, the Crane 
was smoking his pipe, and his Wife sitting beside him, when 
suddenly a Chepawyan entered, equally tall, but powerfully 
made. He went directly to the Crane and told him " I am 
come for your woman, and I must have her, my woman is 
dead, and I must have this woman to do my work and carry 
my things " ; and suiting the action to the word he twisted his 
hand in the hair of her head to drag her away ; on this the 
Crane started up and seized him by the waist ; he let go the 
Woman, and in like manner seized the Crane ; and a wrestling 
match took place which was well maintained by the Crane 
for some time ; but his adversary was too powerful, and at 
length his strength failed, and he was thrown on the floor, 
his opponent placing his knee on his breast, with both hands 
seized his head and twisted his neck so much, that his face 
was almost on his back, and we expected to see it break ; in 
an instant we made him let go, kicked him out of the house, 
with an assurance that if he came back to do the same, we 
would send a ball through him ; he seemed to think he had 
done wrong, upon which we told him that he was welcome 
at any time to come and smoke, or trade, but not to quarrel. 
After standing a few minutes he called to the Crane ; You are 
now under the protection of the White Men, in the summer 
I shall see you on our lands, and then I shall twist your neck 
and take your woman from you ; he went away and we saw 
no more of him ; Their lands, which they claim as their own 
country ; and to which no other people have a right, are 
those eastward of the Rein Deer's and Manito Lakes to 
Churchill Factory and northward along the interior of the 
sea coast ; aU other lands they hunt on belonged to the 
Nahathaways, who have returned to the Southwest ward. 
Early in the month of December, past midnight, a Chepawyan 
of middle stature, of about twenty five years of age, came to 
the house alone, he brought a bundle of Beaver and Marten 


skins ; he looked about with suspicion ; and enquired if any 
of the Natives were near the house. We told him, there had 
been none for several days ; he then traded his furrs for 
necessaries, except a few Martens for Beads and Rings. He 
told me he had a Wife and two children ; and enquired if I 
knew a certain Indian. I said I did ; " Then when you see 
him, tell him we are all well, he is my uncle, and the only 
man who is kind to me." After smoking, I offered him a 
Bison Robe to sleep on, but he told me he must set off 
directly ; which he did, having staid only about an hour. 
There was something strange about him which excited my 
curiousity. About a month afterwards his Uncle came to 
the House ; I told I had seen his Nephew, and that he had 
come alone in the night to trade, and desired me to say they 
were all well, and then enquired the reason of his hasty 
leaving the House after trading ; he smoked for some time ; 
and then said My Nephew is a man, but he has not been wise, 
he is not strong, about five winters ago, a young woman was 
given to him, and after a few moons, we camped with some 
other tents of Chepawyans, where there was a tall strong 
young man who had no woman. He went to my nephew 
and demanded him to give up his wife, which he refused to 
do, upon which the other took hold of him, threw him on the 
ground, and began twisting his neck ; we told him to let 
him alone and take the woman ; she was unwilling to go with 
him, upon which he laid hold of her hair to drag her away ; 
my nephew sprung up, took his gun and shot him dead, and 
made the ground red with man's blood, which he ought not 
to have done ; We all pitched away and left the place : 
since which he lives alone and is afraid to meet any tents, 
for they take every thing from them, and leave them nothing 
but the clothes they have on ; he has been twice stripped 
of all he had ; and therefore keeps away by himself. I told 
them that if I had a wife, and any one came to take her away, 
I would surely shoot him ; Ah, that is the way you White 


Men, and our Neighbours the Nahathaways always talk and 
do, a Woman cannot be touched but you get hold of guns 
and long Knives ; What is a woman good for, she cannot 
hunt, she is only to work and carry our things, and on no 
account whatever ought the ground to be made red with 
man's blood. Then the strong men take Women when they 
want them ; Certainly the strong men have a right to the 
Women. And if the Woman has children ; That is as the 
strong man pleases. So far as the Women are concerned 
they are a sett of Brutes. The expression " the ground red 
with Man's blood " is used by all the Natives of North 
America as very hateful to see ; but by the southern Indians, 
accustomed to war, it is limited to that of their relations 
and tribe ; yet it has a meaning I never could comprehend 
in the same sense as the Natives use it, for they seem to 
attach a mysterious meaning to the expression. In the latter 
end of March, this forlorn Native, again came to the House 
alone ; he had made a good hunt of furrs and traded them in 
clothing for himself and family, ammunition and tobacco, 
not forgetting beads and other articles for his wife. I en- 
quired of him, if what his uncle had told me was true, he said 
it was, that he had been twice pillaged, and that the Women 
were worse than the Men ; you see I have again come to you 
in the night, and before I came into the House, I made sure 
there were no Chepawyans, for if I had met any they would 
have taken the whole of my hunt from me, and left me with 
nothing. I enquired why he did not tent with the Nahatha- 
ways who think much of their women, and love brave men. 
He was at a loss what to say, or do. 

With regard to the immortahty of the soul ; and the 
nature of the other world, the best evidence of their belief 
I learned from a woman ; her husband had traded with me 
two winters. They had a fine boy of six years of age, their 
only child ; he became ill and died ; and according to their 
custom she had to mourn for him twelve Moons, crying in 


a low voice " She azza, She azza " (my little son) never 
ceasing while awake, and often bursting into tears. 

About three months after, I saw her again, [making] the 
same cry, the same sorrowful woman, her husband was kind 
to her ; About six months after this I saw her again, she no 
longer cried " She azza," and was no longer a sorrowing 
woman ; I enquired of her the cause of this change. She 
replied. When my little son went to the other world, there 
was none to receive him, even his Grandfather is yet alive ; 
he was friendless, he wandered alone in the pitching track of 
the tents, (here she shed tears) there was none to take care 
of him no one to give him a bit of meat. More than two 
moons ago, his father died, I sorrowed for him, and still 
sadly regret him, but he is gone to my son, his father will 
take great care of him. He will no longer wander alone, his 
father will be always with him, and when I die I shall go to 
them. Such was the belief that comforted this poor child- 
less widow, and in which I encouraged her, and telling her 
that to be happy in the other world, and go to our relations, 
we must lead good lives here. 

These people though subject to great vicissitudes yet 
suffer less from extreme hunger than the Nahathaways. The 
latter pride themselves with living by hunting animals, look 
on fish as an inferior food, and the catching of them beneath 
a Hunter. The former pride themselves on being expert 
anglers, and have made it their study ; the great Lakes of 
their country yield the finest fish, and when the Deer fail 
they readily take to angling, altho' it affords them no clothing. 
They are in possession of many secrets of making baits for 
taking the different kinds of fish ; which they would not 
impart to me ; but being in their company something was 
seen. The bait for the Trout, the largest fish of the Lakes, 
was the head half of a White Fish, well rubbed with Eagles 
fat, for want of it, other raw fat ; but not greese that had 
been melted by the fire : The Pike and Pickerel take almost 


any thing, even a red rag ; but the pride of these people 
is to angle the White Fish, an art known to only a few of 
the Men ; they would not inform me of its composition, the 
few baits I examined appeared to be all the same, and 
the castorum of the Beaver worked into a thick paste, was 
the principal item ; around were the fine red feathers of the 
Woodpecker, a grain of Eagles fat was on the top of the 
bait, and the hook was well hid in it ; the bait had a neat 
appearance. The art of angling White Fish is to them of 
importance, a young man offered a gun for the secret and was 

These people, the " Dinnae " their native name, though 
better known to us by the name of Chepawyans ; extend in 
different tribes speaking dialects of the same language, to 
near the Pacific Ocean, by the way of Fraser's River : I have 
already mentioned, they claim as their own rightful country, 
from Churchill Factory, and northward to the arctic sea, 
their origin by this account of themselves must have been 
from Greenland. By what means they came to the north 
eastern part of this conti[nent], is better a subject of dis- 
cussion in the Appendix than here : If we knew the state 
of Archery in Greenland, or Iceland it might lead us to 
something certain on these people ; All the Natives of North 
America, except the " Dinnae " in drawing the Arrow, hold 
the Bow in a vertical, or upright position, which gives to 
the arms their full action and force ; but the Dinnae, or 
Chepawyans, hold the Bow in a contrary, or horizontal 
position, the Arrow is held on the string, by two fingers 
below and the thumb above and with the Bow string thus 
drawn to the breast, which does not allow to the Bow two 
thirds of its force ; practice has made them good marksmen, 
but the arrows are feeble in effect. Do any of the people of 
Greenland, Iceland, or the northern nations of Europe, or 
Siberia, handle the Bow in this manner. If so, some inference 


may be drawn from it. Of the state of the Thermometer, 
and other pecuharities of the climate they will be found in 
the Appendix.^ 

^ In Thompson's note-books are many pages of meteorological observa- 
tions taken at various places throughout western Canada ; but in this 
manuscript as it came to me, there was no appendix, and it is not likely 
that any was prepared. 



Leave Hudson's Bay Company — Joiri North West Company — 
Instructions to explore the country — Fur Trade — Peter 
Pond — West end of Lake Athabasca — Philip Tumor — 
Carrying Place of Lake Superior — Brigade — Start on 
Survey — Height of Land — Sieux — Rainy Lake — Rainy 
River — Massacre — Winipeg River — Winipeg Trading 
House — Lake Winipeg. 

THE countries I had explored was under the sanction 
of M"^ Joseph Colen/ the Resident at York Factory 
the most enlightened gentleman who had filled that 
situation ; by a Letter from him, I was informed, that how- 

1 See note on p. 56. Joseph Colen seems to have been a capable 
trader, but his interests were centred in increasing the fur-trade with the 
Indians who came to York Factory of their own accord, rather than 
following these Indians to their hunting-grounds. As far as we know, 
he himself never went inland more than a few miles from the trading 
post ; and in spite of the fact that he was being urged by the directors 
of the Company in London to have the great unknown spaces to the south 
and west of him explored, he was opposed to spending men, money, and 
time on such exploration. His orders to Thompson that he should stop 
surveying were therefore directly contrary to the wishes of his superiors 
in London. It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that his recall in 1798 
was due to the fact that he had prevented Thompson from continuing 
his explorations, and had forced him out of the Company's service. It is 
possible that Thompson may not have known of Colen's true attitude to- 
wards his work, and that he may have thought Colen was merely trans- 
mitting to him the orders he had received from London ; or possibly the 
long time which had elapsed between the date when Thompson left the 
Company, and that when he wrote his memoirs, had mellowed his feelings 
towards his old chief, and had induced him to write the kindly remarks 
here recorded. 



ever extensive the countries yet unknown yet he could not 
sanction any further surveys. My time was up, and I deter- 
mined to seek that employment from the Company Mer- 
chants of Canada, carrying on the Furr Trade, under the 
name of the North West Company : With two Natives I 
proceeded to their nearest trading House, under the charge 
of M"^ Alexander Fraser ; and by the usual route of the 
Canoes arrived at the Great Carrying Place ^ on the north 
shore of Lake Superior, then the depot of the merchandise 
from Montreal ; and of the Furrs from the interior countries. 
The Agents who acted for the Company and were also Partners 
of the Firm, were the Honorable William McGillvray'^ and 

* The Grand Portage, or Great Carrying Place, was situated on the 
north shore of Lake Superior, forty miles south-west of Fort William. 
For about twenty-five years it was the central depot of the Canadian 
traders from Montreal who had associated themselves either in the 
North- West Company or in one of the concerns competing with it. To 
this place the goods which were to be used in trading with the Indians 
for their furs were brought from Montreal either in large canoes or in 
sail-boats ; and the furs which had been collected in the interior country 
to the west of it, were taken back to Montreal in the same boats. From 
the shore of Lake Superior the trading goods were carried over a path or 
trail nine miles in length, past heavy rapids and waterfalls to the banks 
of Pigeon river, where they were loaded into smaller canoes in charge of 
resident partners, but manned by Indians or half-breeds, who had brought 
cargoes of furs from the west and north, and who now took back with them 
supplies for another year. After the signing of the Treaty of London in 
1794, it was found that Grand Portage was in American territory ; there- 
fore, in 1 80 1, the depot was moved to Fort William. Accordingly, it 
was to Fort William that Thompson brought his furs when he descended 
the Saskatchewan river from Rocky Mountain House in 1802. 

2 William McGillivray was a Scotsman who. after serving for several 
years in the employ of the North- West Company in the districts of Red 
and English rivers, became a partner in the concern by buying Pond's 
share for the sum of ;^8oo ; and soon became one of its most influential 
members. In 1814 he was appointed a Legislative Councillor of Lower 
Canada in recognition of the services rendered by him and the North- 
west Company during the war with the United States in 181 2. With 
Edward Ellice he represented the North-West Company in the negoti- 
ations for a union with the Hudson's Bay Company, and it was largely 
through his tact and ability that this union was brought about in 1821. 
His later years were spent in Scotland, where he died about 1825. 


Sir Alexander McKenzie/ gentlemen of enlarged views ; the 
latter had crossed the Rocky Mountains by the Peace River 
and was far advanced by Fraser River towards the Pacific 
Ocean, when want of Provisions and the hostility of the 
Natives obliged him to return. From the Great Slave he 
had explored the great River which flowed from it into the 
Arctic Sea, and which is justly named McKenzie's River. 

My arrival enabled these Gentlemen and the other 
Partners who were present, to learn the true positions of 
their Trading Houses, in respect to each other ; and how 
situated with regard to the forty ninth degree of Latitude 
North, as since the year 1792 this parallel of Latitude from 
the north west corner of the Lake of the Woods to the east 
foot of the Rocky Mountains, had become the boundary Hne 
between the British Dominions and the Territories of the 
United States : instead of a line due west from the North 
west corner of the Lake of the Woods to the head of the 
Mississippe, as designated by the Treaty of 1783.^ The 
scource, or head of the Mississippe was then unknown except 
to the Natives and a very few Furr Traders ; and by them, 
from it's very sinuous course, supposed to be farther north 
than the northern banks of the Lake of the Woods. And 
wherever I could mark the line of the 49**" parallel of Latitude 
[I was told] to do so, especially on the Red River. Also, if 

^ Mackenzie's name is too well-known to need much comment here. 
A native of Stomoway on the island of Lewis, he came to Canada in 1779, 
went to the country west of Lake Superior in 1785, and became a partner 
in the North- West Company in 1787. In 1789 he descended the Mac- 
kenzie river from Lake Athabaska to its mouth, and in 1 793 he ascended 
Peace river to the source of Parsnip river, and thence travelled west- 
ward to the Pacific ocean at the mouth of Bella Coola river, being the 
first white man to cross the North American continent north of Mexico, 
See George Bryce, Life of Sir Alexander Mackenzie, Toronto, 1906 ("The 
Makers of Canada," vol. viii). 

* For a full discussion of terms of the treaties affecting the boundary 
between the United States and Canada, and the awards under these 
treaties, see James White, "Boundary Disputes and Treaties" (in Canada 
and its Provinces, Toronto, 1913, vol. viii. pp. 751-958). 


possible to extend my Surveys to the Missisourie River ; 
visit the villages of the ancient agricultural Natives who 
dwelt there ; enquire for fossil bones of large animals, and 
any monuments, if any, that might throw light on the ancient 
state of the unknown countries I had to travel over and 
examine. The Agents and Partners all agreed to give orders 
to all their Trading Posts, to send Men with me, and every 
necessary I required [was] to be at my order. 

How very different the liberal and public spirit of this 
North West Company of Merchants of Canada ; from the 
mean selfish policy of the Hudson's Bay Company styled 
Honorable ; and whom, at little expense, might have had 
the northern part of this Continent surveyed to the Pacific 
Ocean, and greatly extended their Trading Posts ; whatever 
they have done, the British Government has obliged them 
to do. A short account of the transactions of this Company, 
will prove to the pubHc the truth of what I assert, and will 
throw some light on the discoveries that from time to time 
have been made. 

The furr trade was then open to every Person in Canada 
who could obtain credit for a canoe load of coarse Mer- 
chandise ; and several different Persons engaged in this trade, 
besides those Merchants from Scotland who formed the 
North West Company : Among the Clerks of this last Com- 
pany, was a M"" Peter Pond,^ a native of the city of Boston, 

^ Peter Pond was born in Milford, Connecticut, on January i8, 1740. 
When a young man, he went to the Indian country west of Lake Superior. 
In 1775 he joined Alexander Henry and the Frobishers on Lake Winni- 
peg, and with them ascended the Saskatchewan river as far as Cumber- 
land House. In 1778 he reached Athabaska river, and built a trading 
post on that stream, forty miles south of Lake Athabaska, which he was 
undoubtedly the first white man to visit. Thompson is in error in saying 
that Pond's post was on the north side of Lake Athabaska. In the winter 
of 1780-81, while at Lake La Ronge, Pond killed his partner Wadin ; 
and six years later he killed John Ross, one of the partners of the firm of 
Gregory, McLeod, and Company. About 1790 he sold his interest in the 
North- West Company and went to the United States, where he spent the 
rest of his life. He drew two maps of western Canada, apparently in 


United States. He was a person of industrious habits, a good 
common education, but of a violent temper and unprincipled 
character ; his place was at Fort Chepawyan ^ on the north 
side of the Athabasca Lake, where he wintered three years. 
At Lake Superior he procured a Compass, took the courses 
of the compass through the whole route to his wintering 
place ; and for the distances adopted those of the Canadian 
canoe men in Leagues, and parts of the same, and sketching 
off the Lake shores the best he could. In the winters, taking 
the Depot of Lake Superior as his point of departure, the 
Latitude and Longitude was known as determined by the 
French Engineers ; he constructed a map of the route 
followed by the Canoes. It's features were tolerably correct ; 
but by taking the League of the Canoe Men for three 
geographical miles (I found they averaged only two miles) 
he increased his Longitude so much as to place the Athabasca 
Lake, at it's west end near the Pacific Ocean. A copy of 

1785 and in 1790 respectively ; but the contents of these maps could not 
have been known before George Charles, who is mentioned below, was 
sent from. London, though the earlier map was known when Philip Turnor 
was sent to survey Lake Athabaska in 1791. See L. J. Burpee, The Search 
for the Western Sea, Toronto, 1908, pp. 322-349 ; and Reports of the Cana- 
dian Archives for 1889 and 1890, pp. 29-38 and pp. 52-54 respectively. 

' Fort Chipewyan is at present situated on a rocky point on the north 
shore, and near the western end, of Lake Athabaska. The first fur-trading 
post of this name was built on the south side of Lake Athabaska by 
Roderick Mackenzie in 1 788 ; and it was from here that Alexander Mac- 
kenzie set out on his two expeditions to the Arctic and Pacific oceans. 
But the post was moved over to its present site about the end of the 
eighteenth century. In 1802 Peter Fidler, of the Hudson's Bay Company, 
built a trading post beside Fort Chipewyan (or as Thompson called it 
when he visited it in May, 1804, " Athabasca House "), and named it 
Nottingham House. Four years later, however, the Hudson's Bay Com- 
pany abandoned the whole of the Athabaska district to their Canadian 
rivals, and evacuated Nottingham House. In 181 5 they returned to 
Lake Athabaska, and established a post called Fort Wedderbume on 
Coal Island, some little distance from the trading store of the North-West 
Company ; but in 1821 the two companies were united, and the site and 
name of the North- West Company's post were retained. Fort Chipewyan 
has thus been continuously occupied now for more than a century. 


this Map was given to the Agents of the North West Com- 
pany ; whom, in London laid it before Sir Hugh Dalrymple/ 
then in office, whose character stood high as a gentleman of 
science, and great geographical knowledge, and who com- 
paring the Longitude of the west end of the Athabasca 
Lake hy M" Pond's map with the Charts of Captain Cook 
found the distance to be only one hundred miles ; or less, 
[and] directly conceived that it offered a short route to the 
coasts of Asia for dispatch and other purposes. To verify 
this Map, the Colonial Secretary applied to the Hudson Bay 
Company to send out a Person duly qualified to ascertain 
the Latitude and Longitude of the west end of the Athabasca 
Lake. With this request the Company were obliged to appear 
to comply. 

For this purpose in 1785 they sent out a M" George 
Charles ^ aged fifteen years, whom they had made their 
apprentice for seven years ; when he landed at Churchill 
Factory I saw him, and enquired how he came to undertake 
this business, he told me he had been about one year in the 
mathematical school, had three times with a quadrant brought 
down the Sun to a chalk line on the wall, was declared fuUy 
competent, and sent out to go on discovery. Of course 
nothing could be done. Had this honourable Company in- 
tended the position of the west end of the Lake should be 
known, there were then many Naval Officers on half pay, 
who would gladly have undertaken the expedition to the 
Athabasca Lake and settled it's position. What the views of 
the Company could be for preventing the knowledge re- 
quired, though often a subject of conversation, none could 
divine, their charter gave them the Country, and the furr 
traders of Canada had had Houses there for several years. 

Whatever the views of the Company may have been, this 
trick of sending out a Lad, prevented the CoUonial Office 

* This is an error for Alexander Dalrymple. See note on p. 28. 

* See note on p. 27. 


from obtaining the desired information for five years. The 
pressing demands of this Office then obliged the Hudson's 
Bay Company to engage a Gentleman fully competent, a Mr 
PhiHp Turnor/ one of the compilers of the Nautical Almanac, 
who, in the year 1790 proceeded to Fort Chepawyan at the 
west end of the Athabasca Lake, and head of the Great Slave 
River, where he wintered, and by observations, found the 
place to be in Latitude . . . Longitude ^ . . . and from this 
place the following year returned to England ; After this 
great exertion of the Hudson's Bay Company, they again 
became dormant to the time of Captain FrankHn's survey of 
the Arctic Coast from the Copper Mine River.* 

1 See note on p. 146. 

2 Tumor's latitude and longitude are given by Thompson in his notes 
as 58° 38' N.. 110° 26|' W. 

' In 1 81 9 Captain (afterwards Sir John) Franklin was sent in charge 
of a party from England to explore the Arctic coast of America, east of 
the mouth of the Coppermine river. With him were Sir John Richardson, 
Sir George Back, and Lieutenant Hood as assistants. They went to York 
Factory on Hudson Bay by ship, and ascended the Hayes and Saskat- 
chewan rivers to Cumberland House by boat before the winter set in. In 
January, 1820, Franklin and Back proceeded on foot to Fort Chipewyan 
on Lake Athabaska, while Richardson and Hood followed them in canoes 
as soon as the rivers were free of ice, and arrived at the fort on July 13. 
From there the whole party descended the Slave river, crossed Great 
Slave lake, and ascended Yellowknife river, near the source of which it 
went into winter quarters, and built houses which Franklin called " Fort 
Enterprise." In the summer of 1821 the party descended and made a 
survey of the Coppermine river to its mouth, surveyed the Arctic coast 
eastward to the mouth of Hood's river, and thence crossed overland to 
Fort Enterprise, suffering terrible hardships from exposure and starvation, 
both on the way to, and after their arrival at, the fort, one of the men being 
driven to such extremities by starvation that he killed Lieutenant Hood. 
The following year the survivors returned to York Factory, and thence to 
England. In 1825 it was determined to continue the exploration of the 
northern coast of America east and west from the mouth of Mackenzie 
river, and Captain Franklin was again given charge of the expedition. 
On this occasion he sailed from London to New York. Thence he pro- 
ceeded to Fort William on Lake Superior, and from there by Lake Winni- 
peg to the Mackenzie river, and down that stream to the mouth of Great 
Bear river, which was ascended to Great Bear lake, on the north shore 
of which Fort Franklin was built. Here the party wintered. In 1826 


M' Peter Pond I have mentioned as an unprincipled man 
of a violent charac[ter] ; he became implicated in the death 
of a M' Ross,^ a furr trader, and afterwards [was] a principal 
in the murder of a Mr Wadden,^ another furr trader ; for 
this latter crime he was brought from the Athabasca Lake 
to Canada, and sent to Quebec to be tried for the murder 
he had committed ; but the Law authorities did not con- 
sider the jurisdiction of the Court of Quebec to extend into 
the territories of the Hudsons Bay Company, and therefore 
they could not take cognizance of the crime, and he was set 
at liberty ; he went to his native city, Boston. This was in 
1782. The following year peace was made ; the Commis- 
sioners on the part of Great Britain were two honest well 
meaning gentlemen, but who knew nothing of the geography 
of the countries interior of Lake Ontario, and the Maps they 
had to guide them were wretched compilations. One of them, 
of which I had a fellow Map, was Farren's [Faden's] dated 

the party descended the Mackenzie river to its mouth, where it divided, 
FrankUn and Back going westward along the Arctic coast as far as Point 
Beechey, while Richardson and Kendall went eastward along the coast 
to the mouth of the Coppermine river, and thence ascended that stream 
and crossed country to Fort Franklin, where a second winter was spent. 
The following year Franklin and Richardson returned to England by 
New York, while Back took the remainder of the party to England by 
York Factory. 

1 John Ross was a partner in the firm of Gregory, McLeod, and Com- 
pany in charge of the Athabaska department, where he was opposed by 
Peter Pond of the North-West Company. The two men did not get on 
well together, and in an altercation during the winter of 1786-7 Ross was 
shot. This murder caused the two opposing firms to unite their interests 
under the name of the North-West Company. 

^ Wadin also fell before Pond. Roderick Mackenzie says that he was 
" a Swiss gentleman, of strict probity and known sobriety," who went to 
Lake La Ronge in 1 779 to engage in the fur trade. In the following year 
Pond was sent to the same place to act in conjunction with him. " About 
the end of the year 1780, or the beginning of 1781, Mr. Wadin had re- 
ceived Mr. Pond and one of his friends to dinner, and in the course of the 
night the former was shot through the lower part of the thigh, when it 
was said that he expired from loss of blood" (Alexander Mackenzie, 
Voyages, London, 1801, Introduction, p. xvi). 


1773, which went as far as Lake Ontario, and to the middle 
of this Lake, beyond which, the interior countries were repre- 
sented composed of Rocks and Swamps and laid down as unin- 
habitable. Mitchell's Map was the best. Such Maps gave M"^ 
Peter Pond who was personally acquainted with those coun- 
tries every advantage. A boundary line through the middle 
of Lake Champlain, and thence due west would have been 
accepted at that time by the United [States] for it was more 
than they could justly claim, had a gentleman of abiHties 
been selected on the part of Great Britain, but at that time 
North America was held in contempt. To the United States 
Commissioners M"" Pond designated a Boundary Line passing 
through the middle of the S' Lawrence to Lake Superior, 
through that lake and the interior countries to the north 
west corner of the Lake of the Woods ; and thence westward 
to the head of the Missisourie ^ being twice the area of the 
Territory the States could justly claim ; This exorbitant 
demand the British Commissioners accepted ; and [it] was 
confirmed by both Nations. Such was the hand that desig- 
nated the Boundary Line between the Dominions of Great 
Britain and the Territories of the United States. The 
celebrated Edmund Burke, said, and has left on record, 
" There is a fatahty attending all the measures of the British 
Ministry on the North American Colonies." This sad, but 
just remark has been exemplified in every transaction we 
have had with the United States on Territory ; and in this 
respect Lord Ashburton was outwitted by M"^ Daniel Webster 
at the Treaty of Washington, both in New Brunswick, and 
the interior of Canada. 

It may be said, the country thus acquired by the United 
States is of no importance to England ; be it so ; then let 
England make a free gift to the States of what the latter 
require. History will place all these transactions in their 

' This is a mistake for the Mississippi. 


proper light, and the blockhead treaty of Lord Ashburton^ 
will be a subject of ridicule. 

The south east end of the Great Carrying, was in a small 
Bay of Lake Superior, in Latitude 47 . 58 . 1 N. Longitude 
89 . 44 . 20 W of Greenwich. It was then, and had been for 
several years, the Depot of the Furr Traders ; to this place 
the Canoes from Montreal came, each carrying forty to forty 
five pieces of merchandise, including spirituous liquors ; each 
piece of the weight of ninety to one hundred pounds ; these 
canoes then were loaded with the packs of furrs, the produce 
of the winter trade of the interior countries, and returned to 
Montreal ; The Merchandise for the winter trade of the 
distant trading Posts was here assorted, and made up in pieces 
each weighing ninety pounds ; the Canoes were of a less 
size, and the load was twenty five pieces, besides the pro- 
visions for the voyage and the baggage of the Men : being a 
weight of about 2900 pounds, to which add five Men, the 
weight a canoe carries will be 3700 pounds. 

These Canoes are formed into what are called Brigades of 
four to eight Canoes for the different sections of the interior 
countries. On board of one of these canoes, of a Brigade of 
four under the charge of M"" Hugh McGillis,^ I embarked on 

^ The Ashburton Treaty between Great Britain and the United 
States in 1842 defined the boundary hne between the possessions of the 
two countries from New Brunswick and the State of Maine westward as 
far as the summit of the Rocky Mountains. The subsequent Oregon 
Treaty signed at Washington in 1846 defined the boundary from the 
Rocky Mountains westward to the Pacific ocean. 

* At the time when Thompson joined the North-West Company, Hugh 
McGilhs was one of the senior employees of the company, and was in charge 
of the Swan river district. When the Company was reorganized in 1802, 
he became one of the partners, holding two shares, and when the North- 
West and X Y Companies united in 1804, he was one of those who signed 
the agreement by attorney. During the winter of 1805-06, when Lieu- 
tenant Pike reached the headwaters of the Mississippi, he was in charge 
of a post at Leech lake. Later, his name appears as one of those officials 
of the North-West Company taken prisoners by Lord Selkirk at Fort 
William in 1816. 



the ninth day of August, in the year 1796, for the survey 
of the southern sections. 

My instruments were, a Sextant of ten inches radius, 
with Quicksilver and parallel glasses, an excellent Achromatic 
Telescope ; a lesser for common use ; drawing instruments, 
and two Thermometers ; all made by DoUond. We pro- 
ceeded over the Great Carrying Place, the length of which is 
eight miles and twenty yards in a north west direction to the 
Pigeon River,^ which is about three hundred feet above Lake 
Superior : this was carried over by the Men in five day's 
hard labor. From this to the Height of Land the distance 
is thirty eight miles, including twelve carrying places, of five 
and a half miles of carriage, which makes severe labor for the 
canoe men : A short distance south eastward of the Height 
of Land in the crevices of a steep rock, about twenty feet 
above the water of a small Lake, are a number of Arrows 
which the Sieux Indians shot from their Bows ; the Arrows 
are small and short. The Chippaways, the Natives say : 
these Arrows are the voice of the Sieux and tell us, " We 
have come to war on you, and not finding you, we leave these 
in the rocks in your country, with which we hoped to have 
pierced your bodies." This was about the year 1730. These 
Indians the Sieux Nation ^ are yet a powerful nation, and their 

^ This is a small stream about forty miles in length which flows into 
the north-western side of Lake Superior. Throughout its length it forms 
the boundary line between the United States and Canada. 

* The Sioux are essentially Indians of the great plains and prairies, 
and have always been among the most powerful of the tribes on the North 
American continent. They appear to have been centred in the vicinity 
of the headwaters of the Mississippi river, and to have occasionally ex- 
tended north-eastward to Lake Winnipeg and Lake of the Woods, and 
northward to the Saskatchewan river. The division of the Sioux family 
which is most conspicuous in western Canadian history, consists of 
the Assiniboin or Stonies, who appear to have separated themselves 
from the other Sioux tribes some time before the advent of the whites, 
and to have formed an alliance with the Crce to the north of them, after 
which they were constantly at war with the Sioux to the south of them. 
At the present time the total number of Assiniboin in western Canada 
is about 1,400. 


present hunting grounds are between the Mississippe and 
Missisourie Rivers and [they] now make use of Horses instead 
of Canoes. 

The Height of Land is in Latitude 48 . 6 . 43 N Longitude 
90. 43 . 38 W and Variation six degrees East, and is the dividing 
ridge of land from which the Streams run southeastward into 
Lake Superior, and north eastward into Lake Winepeg, and 
from thence into Hudson's Bay. 

The country so far, is at present, of no value to the farmer, 
time may do something for it as a grazing country, from it's 
many Brooks and small Lakes of clear water. 

The country now declines to the North eastward with 
many small. Streams, which form a fine River. The first 
place worth notice is the Rainy Lake, a fine body of water of 
nineteen miles in length, out of which falls the Rainy River 
by a descent of about ten feet ; close below which is a trading 
House of the North [West] Company in Latitude 48 . 36 . 58 N 
Longitude 93 • 19 • 30 W.^ The distance from the Height of 
Land is one hundred and seventeen miles the country im- 
proving, and in several places good Farms can be made. The 
Rainy River is a fine stream of water of about 200 yards in 
breadth, with only one Rapid, at which in the season, many 
fine Sturgeon are speared by the Natives. The length of 
the river to the Lake of the Woods is 50-i- miles. This is the 
finest river in this country. The banks present the appear- 
ance of a country that can be cultivated but those acquainted 
with it, think the rock too near the surface. The Lake of 
the Woods is in length 32^- miles with many bays, its area 
may be about 800 square miles, with many islets. The north 
eastern shores are of granite ; it's western of limestone ; and 
[it] touches on the great western alluvials. 

1 The post which was on the north bank of the river •Cv^as known after 
the union of the North-West and Hudson's Bay Companies as Fort 
Frances, having been so called after the wife of Sir George Simpson, 
the Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company. 


It seems that when the French from Canada first entered 
these furr countries, every summer a Priest came to instruct 
the Traders and their men in their rehgious duties, and 
preach to them and the Natives in Latin, it being the only 
language the Devil does not understand and cannot learn : 
He had collected about twenty Men with a few of the Natives 
upon a small Island, of rock; and while instructing them, a 
large war party of Sieux Indians came on them and began the 
work of death ; not one escaped ; whilst this was going on, 
the Priest kept walking backwards and forwards on a level 
rock of about fifty yards in length, with his eyes fixed on his 
book, without seeming to notice them ; at length as he 
turned about, one of them sent an arrow through him and 
he fell dead. At this deed the rocky isle trembled and 
shook ; the Sieux Indians became afraid, and they retired 
without stripping the dead, or taking their scalps. These 
Isles, of which there are three, are to this day called " The 
Isles of the dead " (Les isles aux Morts) Such was the rela- 
tion an old Canadian gave me, and which he said he had 
learned of the Furr Traders who then resided among those 

The Lake of the Woods is memorable for being by every 
treaty the north western boundary of the Dominions of Great 
Britain and the United Territories of the United States. 
This Lake may be said to be the most southern Lake of the 
Stony Region that has limestone shores at it's west end, the 
north and eastern parts like the other Lake, have the shores 
and banks of granite, greenstone and clay slate. This Lake, 
by several Falls sends out the River Winepeg (Sea River) in 
a north western direction into Lake Winepeg. It is a bold 
deep Stream of about three hundred yards in width, it has 
many isles and channels, the whole is of granite formation. 
By the course of the River it's length is 125 miles ; In this 
distance there are thirty two Falls, with as many carrying 
places, the total length of which is three miles. At it's 

^ Q 










«— • 
















sortie into Lake Winepeg is a trading House ^ first established 
by the French and kept up by the North West Company : 
in Latitude 50 . 37 . 46 N Longitude 95 • 39 • 34 W Variation 
nine degrees east. The whole extent of country from Lake 
Superior to this House can support, comparatively, to the 
extent of country, but few Natives, who are of the Chippeway 
Tribe ; the country never could have been rich in animals ; 
and has long been exhausted : the Deer is almost unknown, 
and but few furr bearing animals remain ; the principal 
support of the Natives is the fish of the Lakes, of which are 
Sturgeon,'^ White Fish,^ Pike,"* PickereP and Carp,^ the quality 
good. The greatest use of the Winepeg House is for a depot 
of Provisions, which are brought to this place by the canoes 
and boats from the Bison countries of the Red and Saskat- 
chewan Rivers, and distributed to the canoes and boats for 
the voyages to the several wintering furr trading Houses. 
Lake Winepeg'' (or the Sea) so called by the Natives from it's 

1 This trading post, first known as Fort Maurepas, was founded in 
1734 by one of the sons of La Verendrye on the north side of the Winnipeg 
river, some Uttle distance above its mouth. When the French left the 
country the post was abandoned ; but in 1792 Toussaint Lesieur, one of 
the employees of the North-West Company, built a post, which is now 
called Fort Alexander, on the south side of the river, and a few miles lower 
down the stream than the old French fort. Gabriel Franch^re, who 
passed this place in 181 4 on his way east from the Columbia river, wrote 
of it, " This trading post had more the air of a large and well-cultivated 
farm, than a fur-traders' factory ; a neat and elegant mansion, built on a 
slight eminence, and surrounded with barns, stables, storehouses, &c., 
and by fields of barley, peas, oats, and potatoes." 

'^ Acipenser rubicundus Le Sueur. [E. A. P.] 

' Coregonus. [E. A. P.] 

* Esox lucius Linn. [E. A. P.] 

* Stizostedion vitreum (Mitchill). [E. A. P.] 

" Suckers, probably Catostomus catostomus (Forster), and Moxostoma 
lesueuri (Richardson). [E. A. P.] 

' Lake Winnipeg is one of the great inland seas of Canada, having a 
length of 260 miles and a total area of 9,414 square miles. It is thus 
considerably larger than Lake Ontario, and only 500 square miles less 
than Lake Erie. It lies in a general south-east and north-west direction, 
its north-eastern shore being composed of granite and similar plutonic 


size, is of the form of a rude Paraelelogram ; and it's geological 
structure is the same as that of all the Lakes northward and 
westward ; its eastern shores and banks are of the granitic 
order ; the north side mostly high banks of earth ; the west 
side is low, the shores, and the isles wholly of limestone : On 
the west side, in it's southern bay, it receives the Red River 
distant from the Winepeg House forty two miles. North- 
ward of the same bay [is] the Dauphine River ; at its north 
west corner the Saskatchewan River, besides other lesser 
streams on it's west and east sides, all which enlarge the 
Saskatchewan, which flows out at the north east corner of 
the Lake in Latitude 53 . 43 . 45 N Longitude 98 . 31 .0 West. 
The length of the west side of this lake from the Winepeg 
House to the sortie of the Saskatchewan River into the lake 
is 231 miles, N 36 W and it's east side is about 217 miles ; 
the north side 45 miles and the south side about the same : 
and including its isles, [it] has an area of about 10,080 square 
miles. The woods all around this Lake are small, with many 
branches, in winter the climate is severe ; and there [are] very 
few deer, and other animals ; but the fish are good, and it's 
isles in the summer season are covered with the nests of the 
common Gull,^ the eggs of which are nearly as good as those 
of our common Fowls ; There are but few natives about this 
Lake, and they lead a hard life. 

rocks, while on its south-western shores are long low-lying areas of clay 
land skirted with beaches of sand, gravel, or boulders, above which occa- 
sionally rise cliffs of horizontally stratified limestone. Considering its 
great size the lake is shallow. Whitefish of excellent quality and flavour 
are particularly abundant in it, and great numbers are caught every year. 
The name is an Algonquin one, meaning bad water, and is properly ap- 
plied by the Indians to Hudson Bay with its salt undrinkable water. 
The original Algonquin name is " the Great Lake," and I have not been 
able to learn how the name " Bad Water Lake " became applied to it, but 
probably it was through an imperfect understanding by the white pioneers 
of the information supplied them by the Indians. 
1 Larus argentatus Pontoppidan. [E. A. P.] 



















Great Plains — Low range of hills — Animals of the Hills — 
Squirrels — Field Mice — Animals of the Plains — Bison — 
Manner of hunting Bisons — Pounding Bisons — Plains on 
Fire — Wolves — Red Deer — Jumping Deer — Antelope — 
Badger — Climate — Mississourie River — Snags — Bow River 
— Coal — Mammoth. 


ITHERTO the Reader has been confined to the 
sterile Stony Region and the great Valley of the 
Lakes. My travels will now extend over countries 
of a very different formation ; these are [called] the Great 
Plains as a general name, and are supposed to be more ancient 
than the Stony Region and the great Valley of the Lakes. 

By a Plain I mean lands bearing grass, but too short for 
the Scythe ; where the grass is long enough for the Scythe, 
and of which Hay can be made, I name [them] meadows. 
These Great Plains may be said to commence at the north 
side of the Gulph of Mexico, and extend northward to the 
latitude of fifty four degrees ; where these plains are bounded 
by the Forests of the north, which extend unbroken to the 
arctic Sea. On the east they are bounded by the Mississippe 
River, and northward of which by the valley of the lakes ; 
and on the west by the Rocky Mountains. The length of 
these Plains from South to North is 1240 miles ; and the 
breadth from east to west to the foot of the Mountains, 
from 550 to 800 miles giving an area to the Great Plains of 

1,031,500 square miles, in which space the Ozark Hills are 



included. The perpetual snows and Glaciers of the Moun- 
tains, which everywhere border the west side of these Plains, 
furnish water to form many Rivers ; all these south of the 
latitude of forty nine degrees flow into the Mississippe River, 
the most northern of which is the Missisourie River. Close 
northward of the scources of the Missisourie, are the south 
branches of the Saskatchewan River,^ which descends to 
Hudson's Bay. The next great Rivers northward are the 
Athabasca and Peace Rivers, which with other lesser streams 
form McKenzie's River, which empties itself into the Arctic 
Sea. It may be remarked among other great differencies 
between the Stoney Region and the Great Plains, that all 
the Rivers of the former Region, or that pass through it, 
meet with, and also form many Lakes and Falls, while all 
the Rivers in their courses through the Great Plains, and the 
northward forest lands, do not form a single Lake. Thus the 
three great Rivers of North America enter different seas. The 
Mississippe from Latitude 47 . 39 . 15 N Longitude 95 . 12 . 45 
running about S. by E. into the gulph of Mexico in Latitude 
. . . Longitude. . . .^ The Saskatchewan rising in Latitude 
51 . 48 . 25 N. Longitude 116 . 45 . 13 W running NE ward into 
Hudson's Bay in Latitude 57.6 North Longitude 91 . 20 W 
and McKenzie's River, it's great southern branch rising in 
Latitude 52 . 20 N Longitude 1 18 . o . o W running NNE ward 
into the sea in Latitude . . . Longitude . . .^ 

So different are the courses of these Rivers on the same 
side of the Rocky Mountains from which they take their 
rise ; and on entering the different seas into which they 
discharge their waters, they all appear of about equal magni- 

* The Indian name for this river is Kissiskatchewan, or swift-flowing 
river, but the fur-traders shortened the word by leaving out the first 

* The mouth of the Mississippi is in latitude 29° N., longitude 89° W. 

3 The Mackenzie river discharges its waters into the Arctic sea through 
many channels, but the mean position of its mouth might be taken as 
latitude 69* N., and longitude 135" W. 


tude. The east side of these Great Plains have a fine appear- 
ance, the soil is rich, with many extensive Meadows. A 
range of fine low HiUs sufficiently well wooded, with many 
springs of fine water and Rivulets, which for small Rivers 
navigable to Canoes and Boats as the Dauphine, Swan, Mouse, 
and Stone Indian Rivers, with several Rivulets all flowing 
through a rich soil. The Hills are the Turtle Hill, the most 
southern, and not far from the Missisourie River. The next 
northward are the Hair, the Nut, the Touchwood, the 
Dauphine, the Eagle, and the Forrest Hills. The west side of 
these Hills, as seen from the Plains have gentle elevations of 
about two hundred feet ; but as seen from the eastward, 
present an elevation of five to eight hundred feet above the 
common level, and have very fine Forrests of well grown trees 
of Birch,^ several kinds of Pine," Poplar,^ Aspin,* and small 
Ash^ and Oaks.^ These Hills are the favourite resort of the 
Moose ' and the Red Deer,^ with two or three species of the 
Antelope.® The Black, Brown, and Yellow Bears ^° feed on 
the Berries, the Nuts and any thing else they can catch ; one 
of them was shot that was guarding part of an Antelope, 
which he had killed and partly eaten ; how this clumsy brute 
could have caught so fleet an animal as the Antelope was a 
matter of wonder. The Bears lay up nothing for their sub- 
sistence in winter, and are then mostly dormant. As we 
travelled through the fine forests we were often amazed with 

1 Betula papyrifera Marsh. [E. A. P.] 

^ Besides the Banksian Pine, Pinus divaricata (Ait.), the spruces are 
probably included. [E. A. P.] 

' Populus balsamifera Linn. [E. A. P.] 

* Populus tremuloides Michx. [E. A. P.] 
^ Fraxinus. [E. A. P.] 

* Quercus macrocarpa Michx. [E. A. P.] 
' Alces americanus (Clinton). [E. A. P.] 

* Cervus canadensis Erxleben. [E. A. P.] 

' There is only one species, Antilocapra americana Ord. Perhaps 
Thompson here, as elsewhere, includes Deer (Odocoileus) . [E. A. P.] 

*" The Black Bear, Ursus americanus Pallas, and formerly the Grizzly 
Bear, Ursus horribilis Ord. [E. A. P.] 


the activity of the Squirrels ^ collecting hazel nuts for their 
supply in winter, and of which each collects more than a 
bushel, whereas the Squirrels" of the Pine Forests of the north 
seem to lay up nothing, but are out every day feeding on the 
cones of the White Pine.^ The Field Mice "* are also equally 
active in laying in store provisions for the winter. The 
cHmate is good, the winters about five months, the summers 
are warm, and autumn has many fine days. The soil is rich 
and deep, and [there is] much vegetable mould from the 
annual decay of the leaves of the Forest Trees, and the grass of 
the Meadows : CiviHzation will no doubt extend over these 
low hills ; they are well adapted for raising of cattle ; and 
when the wolves are destroyed, also for sheep ; and agri- 
culture will succeed to a pastoral life, so far as Markets can 
be formed in the country, but no further ; for Canada is 
too distant and difficult of access. The only Port open to 
them is York Factory on the dismal shores of Hudson's Bay, 
open four months in the year. And to go to York Factory 
and return will require all that part of the summer which 
cannot be spared : but when a civilized population shall 
cover these countries, means will be found to make it's produce 
find a Market. 

From the gulph of Mexico to the Latitude of 44 degrees 
north, these Great Plains may be said to be barren for great 
spaces, even of coarse grass, but the cactus grows in abundance 
on a soil of sand and rolled gravel ; even the several Rivers 
that flow through these plains do not seem to fertiHse the 
grounds adjacent to them ; These rivers are too broad in 
proportion to their depth and in autumn very shallow ; the 
Mountains are comparatively low and therefore sooner 
exhausted of their winter snows, and travellers often suffer 

1 Probably Chipmunks, Eutamias borealis (Allen). [E. A. P.] 

* Sciurus hudsonicus Erxleben. [E. A. P.] 

^ White Spruce, Picea canadensis (Mill.). [E. A. P.] 

* Microius p. drummondi and other species. [E. A. P.] 


for want of water. But as one advances northward the soil 
becomes better, and the Missisourie River through its whole 
length to it's confluence with the Mississippe carries with it 
lands of deep soil, on which are many Villages of the Natives, 
who subsist partly by agriculture and partly by hunting. 
The course of the Missisourie is through an elevated part of 
these Plains, and it's great body of water has a swift current 
for about four miles an hour, which makes the ascent of this 
River in boats very laborious, although there are neither 
rapids, nor falls : Although the heads of this River give 
several passages across the Mountains yet from the labor 
being so great, and also [the being] exposed to attacks from 
hostile Indians, [it seems] that Steam Vessels are the only 
proper craft for this River ; and even to these, it's many 
shoals and sands offer serious impediments, for it's waters 
are very turbid. From these there arises more vexation than 
danger ; this latter is incurred every day by what are called 
Sawyers, Planters, and Snags, names which have been ridiculed 
without offering better in their stead. But however these 
things may be laughed at, they are very serious obstacles to 
the navigation of this River, and also of the Mississippe. 
They all proceed from trees torn up by the roots, by the 
freshets from heavy rains, or the melting of the Snow. 

The Planter is a tree that has it's head and branches 
broken, its roots frequently loaded with earth, and some- 
times stones ; drags the bottom until something stops it, 
and the roots become firmly fixed in the bottom ; when the 
water is high and covers them, they are dangerous, but in 
low water can be seen : The Sawyer is generally a Tree of 
large dimensions broken about the middle of its length, it's 
roots are in the mud of the bottom of the River, sufficiently 
to retain them there ; but not so firmly as to keep the broken 
tree steady, the strong current bends the tree under as much 
as the play of the roots will permit, the strain on which 
causes a reaction, and the tree rises with a spring upwards to 


several feet above the water, and with such force as will 
damage or destroy any Vessel ; but as the rising of these 
Sawyers are often seen at some distance, they are avoided : 
though I have seen some that being by the current immersed 
many feet under water have taken fifteen to twenty minutes 
between each appearance. The smaller the Tree the quicker 
their work. A Bison Bull in swimming across the River got 
on a small one, and remained swimming with all his might, 
though still in the same place. When the water becomes 
low, many of these Sawyers have very little water and we see 
the whole machinery. The Snag is the same as the Planter, 
only always under water, so that it is not seen, and cannot 
be avoided ; several boats have been sunk by them : the 
water is so turbid nothing can be seen under it's surface. The 
River next northward of the Missisourie is the Bow River,^ so 
named from a species of Yew Tree on its banks, of which 
good Bows are made. This is the most southern River of the 
British Dominions and the South Branch of the Saskatchewan. 
The Bow River flows through the most pleasant of the 
Plains, and is the great resort of the Bison and the Red Deer, 
and also of the Natives ; the soil appears good along it's whole 
extent, but for the most part is bare of Woods, and those 
that remain are fast diminishing by fire. The soil of the 
plains appears to continue increasing in depth, and the same 

1 Bow river is the translation of the Cree Indian name Manachaban 
Sipi. It is so called on account of the growth of Douglas fir on its banks, 
as from this wood, if it could be obtained, bows were made. As here used 
the name is applied to the whole length of the south branch of the Sas- 
katchewan river from its source in the Rocky Mountains to its junction 
with the north branch at " The Forks." As far as we yet have certain 
information, it was first descended in 1800 by four men sent by Thompson 
from Rocky Mountain House, and later in the same year it was again 
ascended by Belleau, Fidler, and John Wills, to the forks of the Red Deer 
and Bow river proper, where Chesterfield House was built by the North- 
west, Hudson's Bay, and X Y Companies respectively to secure the trade 
with the Blackfeet. The site was occupied by these companies for two 
years, and was then abandoned. 


through the Forests. In Latitude 56 degrees north, is the 
Smoke River, the great south branch of the Peace River ; 
by the GuUies and Ravines the earth appears to have a depth 
of about 300 feet ; Those who wish to find a material cause 
for this apparent increasing depth of earth from south to north ; 
are led to suppose a great flood of water from the gulph of 
Mexico rushed northwards along the Mountains, denuded all 
the south parts of it's earth, leaving sand and rounded gravel 
for a soil ; and carried the earth northward, where it has 
settled in great depth ; here is a grand cause with a great 
effect. But how came the Rivers not to be defaced. The 
Rivers that roll through this immense unbroken body of land 
of Plains and Forests, are so beautifully distributed ; all 
their banks so admirably adjusted to the volumes of water 
that flow between them, that neither the heaviest rains nor 
the melting of the Snows of the Mountains inundate the 
adjacent country. In all seasons, the Indians, the Bisons ^ and 
Deer,^ repose on their banks in perfect security. Who ever 
calmly views the admirable formation and distribution of the 
Rivers so wonderfully conducted to their several seas ; must 
confess the whole to have been traced by the finger of the 
Great Supreme Artificer for the most benevolent purposes, 
both to his creature Man, and the numerous Animals he has 
made, none of whom can exist without water. Water may 
be said to be one of the principal elements of life. 

Coal appears to be sparingly found in North America ; 
and the beds [are] very far between each other. The only 
beds of coal that have come to my knowledge, are those which 
lye near the foot of the Rocky Mountains ; the Missisourie 
is said to have coal, but of this I am not sure. The branches 
of the Saskatchewan River in the freshets lodge Coal on the 
sands of the Rivers. On the main River when the water 
lowers, several bushels of very good Coal can be collected on 

1 Bison bison (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 

2 Odocoileus. [E. A. P.] 


the Sands, and at the Rocky Mountain House,^ where I passed 
two winters and one summer, we found the bank about 
ICO yards below the House to be of pure coal, and of an 
excellent quality. My Blacksmith tried this coal, and at the 
first trial it melted the rod of iron, and from the great heat it 
gave, he had to use half charcoal ; and thought the quality 
of the coal superior to any brought from England. This bed 
of Coal extends as far as 56 degrees of north Latitude, and 
Longitude . . . West. For the Smoke River ^ is so named, 
from the volumes of dark smoke sent from the Coal Mines 
there on fire, and which have bten burning beyond the 
memory of the oldest Indian of that River. 

From the very numerous remains in Siberia and parts 
of Europe of the Elephant, Rhinocerous, and other large 
Animals, especially near the Rivers, and in their banks, of 
those countries, I was led to expect to find the remains of 
those Animals in the Great Plains, and the Rivers that flow 
through them : but all my steady researches, and all my 
enquiries led to nothing. Over a great extent of these 
Plains not a vestige could be found, nor in the banks of the 
many Rivers I have examined.^ 

1 Rocky Mountain House was built by the North-West Company in 
1799, under instructions from John McDonald of Garth, who was living 
at the time at Fort George. It was situated on the north side of the 
North Saskatchewan river, a mile and a quarter above the mouth of 
Clearwater river. Thompson spent here the winters of 1800—01 and 
1806-07. When I visited the place in 1886, some of the bastions of the 
old fort were still standing. 

* This river, which is one of the large branches of Peace river, is 
rightly stated by Thompson to have been named from the seams of coal 
which are burning on its banks. It is set on fire by spontaneous com- 
bustion caused by the oxidation of iron pyrites, which occurs associated 
with the coal. 

^ It is a rather curious circumstance that the occurrence of fossil bones 
in western Canada should have been unknown to Thompson and his asso- 
ciates, for while they might not have found them themselves, it would 
have been only reasonable to suppose that they would have been told 
about them by the Indians. It is true that mastodon bones are very 
scarce, there being only one authenticated record of a find of such bones 


The fossil bones of the large animals that have been 
found on this Continent appear to be limited to the United 
States east of the Allegany Mountains (Hills), and on the 
west side to the Ohio River, and the countries southward on 
the east side of the Mississippe and to South America. On 
the west side of the Mississippe only one large bone has been 
found, which the Natives reverenced and [which] has given a 
name to two tribes, the great, and the little, Osage Indians. 

This large bone, several years ago, was purchased from the 
Natives and placed in the museum of Washington City. 
The Natives when questioned on the fossil bones of the Ohio 
River, made a fable for an answer. That in old times these 
Mammoths were numerous ; they devoured all other Animals, 
and did not allow Man to live ; at length the Great Spirit 
became angry. He descended with the Thunder in his hands, 
and destroyed them all ; except the big Bull, the Thunder 
struck him on the forehead but did not kill him, he bounded 
away, sprang over the Mississippe River, and ran to the west, 
where he yet lives. (Note. When on the head waters of 
the Athabasca River and Mountain defiles to the Columbia 
River ; the Natives, but especially the White and Iroquois 
Hunters, all declared these places to be the haunt of an 
enormous Animal who lived on grass, moss and the tender 
shoots of the willows ; nor could all my arguments when 
there make a single convert to the contrary). 

Not a single fossil bone of an Elephant, Rhinocerous, or 
Mammoth has been found in all Canada nor about any of 

on the plains of the west, namely, on Shell river in northern Manitoba. 
But on the banks of the Red Deer river, as well as on some of the other 
streams farther south, huge bones of dinosaurs and other gigantic reptilian 
animals of late Cretaceous age are fairly abundant. In fact this locality 
is now one of the most famous collecting grounds of these fossil bones in 
North America. The reason for this ignorance was doubtless that these 
bones are not found on the banks of the North Saskatchewan river, which 
was the ordinary line of travel at that time, and that the streams to the 
south of it, on which they do occur, were practically unknown to the 
white men. 


the Great Lakes, and valley of the [St.] Lawrence, and north- 
ward to the Arctic Circle, although almost all these countries 
are sufficiently known ; nor has the travels of Captain Franklin 
in the Arctic Regions been attended with any success on this 
subject. On the west side of the Rocky Mountains, I passed 
six year ^ of discovery, yet not a vestige that these great 
Animals once existed in those parts could be found. We may 
therefore conclude, that the great animals of North America 
were limited to the east and west sides of the Allegany Hills, 
and the east side of the valley of the Mississippe, and no 
farther to the northward and westward on this Continent : 
and that these were all destroyed by the Deluge, which also 
put an end to other races of animals and thus the Great 
Creator made the Earth more habitable for his favourite 
creature Man. 

^ The years referred to are 1807 to 181 2 inclusive. 



Cross Lake Winipeg — Dauphine River — Swan River — Szoan 
River House — Set out for Upper House on Stone Indian 
River — Trading House in charge of M. Belleau — Reach 
Upper House on Red Deer River — Fearlessness of Plain 
Deer — Man and the Beaver — Introduction of iron imple- 
ments by the French — Character of the Beaver — The Dam — 
Beaver Houses — Burrows — Beaver Hunting — Beaver Dogs 
— Long Beaver Dam — Tradition of the Beaver — Castorum 
— Destruction of the Beaver — Journey — Stone Indians. 

I HOPE I have now given such a general view of the 
formation of the Great Plains and their eastern borders 
as will enable the reader readily to follow me in my 
travels. One of the principal objects of the North West 
Company was to ascertain the Courses of the Rivers, the 
situation of the Lakes, and of their several Trading Houses, 
which in some parts appeared to be too near each other, and 
in other parts, too distant. 

From the Winepeg House we coasted the Lake with it's 
shore of limestone, mostly low, but at times forming cliffs to 
the height of fifty feet to the mouth of the Dauphine River. ^ 
To this place our straight course has been N 43 W 127 miles. 
We now proceeded up the Dauphine River, a fine stream of 

^ Dauphin river is now known as the Little Saskatchewan river, 
and flows from Lake Manitoba into Lake Winnipeg. Thompson omits 
to mention that he passed through Partridge Crop and St. Martin lakes 
on the way up the Dauphin river, and that after leaving the head of 
this river he passed through a long stretch of Lake Manitoba before he 
reached the Meadow Portage. 

193 N 


about thirty yards in width, and an average of three feet in 
depth. As we advanced the country improved in soil, and 
also the Forests through which it runs, but the Deer and the 
Beaver are few. Having proceeded eighty eight miles in a 
straight course of S 74 W, the River has many turnings in 
this distance, we came to the Meadow Carrying Place ^ of 
2760 yards, which leads from the River to Lake Winepegoos ^ 
(the little Sea). The Dauphine comes out of this Lake, but 
it's course is now so circuitous, with shoal Rapids, that the 
Carrying Place is preferred. We went over this Lake for 
fifty nine miles to the entrance of the Swan River, a small 
stream of about fifteen to twenty yards in width, with a 
depth of about three feet and gentle current, through a fine 
country, for we are now among the fine low Hills I have 
already mentioned ; the Beaver are now plenty ; but the 
Deer are only beginning to leave the heights of the Hills 
where they pass the summer. 

Having proceeded twelve miles we came to the Swan River 
House of the North West Company,^ in Latitude 52 . 24 . 5 N 
Longitude 100 . 36 . 52 W Variation 13 East. There were but 
two families of the Natives, Nahathaway Indians to whom 
these countries belong : but several Chippewas * have lately 

^ Lake Winnipegosis discharges into Lake Manitoba by Waterhen 
river, a stream which first flows north and then turns and flows a Uttle 
east of south, almost parallel with its former course. In order to avoid 
the ascent of this stream it was customary for the canoemen to carry their 
canoes and cargoes over a low grassy ridge 3,130 yards across, which sepa- 
rated the two lakes. This was known as the Meadow Portage or Carry- 
ing Place. 

* The name of this lake is now regularly spelled Winnipegosis. It is 
a large narrow body of moderately clear water, with a greatest length of 
120 miles, and a total area of 2,000 square miles. The total distance 
travelled by Thompson through this lake from the Meadow Portage to 
the mouth of Swan river was 145 miles, and not 59 miles as stated in 
the text. 

* For a more exact statement of Thompson's movements at this time, 
and the position of this house, see p. Ixxiii. 

* The Chippewa, or as they are sometimes called the Ojibways, are one 
of the great branches of the Algonquin family which was so widely spread 



j H 


! '^ 


i W 



' D 


















come from the southward where their own countries are 
exhausted of the Beaver and the Deer. These two famiUes 
having procured Ammunition and Tobacco went off to inform 
the others of the arrival of the Canoes. From the Swan River, 
on the zG^ September 1796 [1797] we proceeded with Horses 
across the country to the Stone Indian River, (on which the 
North West Company have several trading Houses) to the 
upper House in charge of M"" Cuthbert Grant,^ N 40-$- W 90 
miles ; this distance was mostly through fine Forests through 
which our Horses found the ground every where good, 
except a few wet meadoWs, in which they did not go ancle 
deep. My Indian Guide had learned that the Pawnee 
Indians had been defeated, and altho' by Indians of whom 
he knew nothing, yet kept bawHng the whole day, " We have 
fought with the Pawnee's and have conquered them." He 
was a Chippeway. In the evening when we camped, I told 
him, he was the only Warrior I ever knew, that boasted of 
conquering a people whom he never saw, nor was likely to 
see, and that no one woiild believe him ; he replied. We 
young men, at present, have no opportunities of distinguish- 
ing ourselves, the enemies that our fathers warred on are 
driven across the Missisourie River, far beyond our reach, 
but I wiU sing no more. 

We now turned to the trading House in charge of M' 
Belleau,^ situated between the Swan and Stone Indian Rivers, 

over Canada from the Rocky Mountains eastward to the Atlantic ocean. 
The centre of the territory occupied by them was probably about Sault 
Ste. Marie, at the east end of Lake Si;4)erior. 

* For the position of this post, see p. Ixxiii. It appears to have been 
founded by Peter Grant about 1793, and to have been occupied by Cuth- 
bert Grant afterwards. Cuthbert Grant was the father of the Cuthbert 
Grant who took so large a part in the Red River troubles in the early part 
of the nineteenth century. He had been with Peter Pond and Alexander 
Mackenzie on Lake Athabaska in 1786 and 1789. Masson says that he 
died in 1799. 

* Pierre Belleau, the man here referred to, was an old engage of the 
North-West Company who was in charge of a number of posts throughout 
the North- West in the latter part of the eighteenth century. A man of 


and as usual observed for Latitude and Longitude, which 
gave 51° 51' 9" N i02°-3o" W the course N. 12 W 30 miles. 
In this distance the country had much wet ground from the 
many ponds kept full by Beaver Dams. We returned to 
M^ Grants, and from there journeyed to the Upper House 
on the Red Deer River,^ in charge of M' Hugh McGillis, in 
Latitude 52-59-7 N Longitude 101-32-27 W the course 
N 10 E III Miles, but the Ponds formed by the Beaver, and 
their Dams which we had to cross lengthened our Road to 
150 miles ; these sagacious animals were in full possession of 
the country, but their destruction had aheady began, and was 
now in full operation. All the above Trading Houses of the 

this name, and probably the same individual, was in charge of the party 
for the X Y Company which ascended the South Saskatchewan river in 
the summer of 1800, and founded Chesterfield House at the forks of the 
Bow and Red Deer rivers. 

^ Thompson's map shows this house to have been on the north bank 
of the Red Deer river. It was probably opposite the mouth of the 
Etoimami river, between three and four miles south of Hudson Bay 
Junction on the Canadian Northern Railway, where the ruins of two old 
houses were seen in 1889. This post is probably the one referred to as 
Fort La Biche on Pond's map of 1790, though there it is wrongly placed 
on the Swan river. In this case, it was doubtless one of the oldest trading 
posts south of the Saskatchewan river and west of the Manitoba lakes ; 
the only other posts designated on the map being Fort Dauphin on Lake 
Dauphin, and Fort Epinette on the Assiniboine river. There was also 
another trading post on the Red Deer river which was known as the 
Lower Settlement, and was said to be sixty miles below the Upper Settle- 
ment. It was situated on the north bank of the river a short distance 
west of Red Deer lake, on a flat, which, in 1889, was covered with grass 
and rose bushes or small poplars. Here and there were pits or cellars 
where potatoes had doubtless been stored during the winter, and it was 
possible to see that the natural sod had been broken in order to grow 
potatoes and other vegetables. Just on the bank of the river and almost 
ready to be carried away by the first flood was a heap of earth and stones 
representing a chimney of one of the old houses. All remains of the 
other houses had already been carried away. A little nearer Red Deer 
lake, and on the south side of the river, were the remains of the chimneys 
and cellars of four old houses representing the site of a trading post of 
the Hudson's Bay Company. From one of the heaps of earth and stones, 
representing all that remained of a chimney of one of the houses, a large 
poplar tree was then growing. 


North West Company from Canada were on the south west 
sides of the range of low Hills which border the east side of 
the Great Plains and hitherto all my journeys were those of 
pleasure : The Moose Deer of these Hills, although always a 
very wary animal, yet from their being more numerous, also 
from the Forests being more open, were not the same cautious, 
timid, animal that it is in the close, dark, Pine Forests of the 
north : aided perhaps, by being accustomed to see other 
species of Deer and Horses ; but the Stag ^ with his half a 
dozen of Does, which he as carefully guards, and is as ready 
to fight for, as any Turkish Pacha for his Harem, that is the 
pride of these forests and meadows. But when the season of 
love is over, as now, his Does leave him, his head droops, 
and [he] is no longer the lordly animal that appeared as light 
on the ground as a Bird on the wing. On such a variety of 
Hill and Plain, of Forests and Meadows I expected to have 
found several mineral Springs, which are so frequent in other 
countries ; but neither my attention to this object, nor my 
enquiries could find one single Spring : all my information 
led only to the saline Brooks of the Red River, from some of 
which salt is made by boiling the saline water. All those 
fine countries are the hunting grounds of the Nahathaway 

Previous to the discovery of Canada (about 320 years ago,) 
this Continent from the Latitude of forty degrees north to 
the Arctic Circle, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, 
may be said to have been in the possession of two distinct 
races of Beings, Man and the Beaver. Man was naked and 
had to procure clothing from the skins of animals ; his only 
arms were a Stake, pointed and hardened in the fire, a Bow 
with Arrows, the points hardened with fire, or headed with 
stone or bone of the legs of the Deer, a Spear headed in the 
same manner, and a club of heavy wood, or made of a rounded 
stone of four, or five pounds weight, inclosed in raw hide, 

^ Cervus canadensis Erxleben. [E. A, P.] 


and by the same bound round a handle of wood of about 
two feet in length, bound firm to the Stone. Such were the 
weapons Man had for self defence and with which to procure 
his food and clothing. Against the bones of an Animal his 
Arrows and Spear had little effect ; the flank of every animal 
is open, and thither, into the bowels, the Indian directed 
his fatal and unerring Arrows. (Note. Every Hunter is 
acquainted with the effects of wounds in the different parts 
of an animal ; with an arrow in, or a ball through, the bowels, 
an animal if pursued will go a long way : but if let alone, 
soon becomes as it were sick, lies down on it's belly and there 
dies). Besides his weapons, the Snare was much in use, and 
the Spear to assist it for large animals, and by all accounts 
the Deer and furr bearing animals were very numerous, and 
thus Man was Lord of all the dry land and all that was on it. 
The other race was the Beaver, they were safe from every 
animal but Man, and the Wolverine. Every year each pair 
having from five to seven young, which they carefully reared, 
they become innumerable, and except the Great Lakes, the 
waves of which are too turbulent, occupied all the waters of 
the northern part of the Continent. Every River where the 
current was moderate and sufficiently deep, the banks at the 
water edge were occupied by their houses. To every small 
Lake, and all the Ponds they builded Dams, and enlarged 
and deepened them to the height of the dams. Even to 
grounds occasionally overflowed, by heavy rains, they also 
made dams, and made them permanent Ponds, and as they 
heightened the dams [they] increased the extent and added to 
the depth of the water ; Thus all the low lands were in posses- 
sion of the Beaver, and all the hollows of the higher grounds. 
Small Streams were dammed across and Ponds formed ; the 
dry land with the dominions of Man contracted, every where 
he was hemmed in by water without the power of preventing 
it : he could not diminish the numbers half so fast as they 
multiplied, and their houses were proof against his pointed 


stake, and his arrows could seldom pierce their skins. (Note. 
In my travels, several thousands of the Natives were not half 
so well armed.) In this state Man and the Beaver had been 
for many centuries, but the discovery of Canada by the 
French, and their settlements up the S* Lawrence soon placed 
the Natives far superior to the Beaver. 

Without Iron, man is weak, very weak, but armed with 
Iron, he becomes the Lord of the Earth, no other metal can 
take it's place. For the furrs which the Natives traded, they 
procured from the French Axes, Chissels, Knives, Spears and 
other articles of iron, with which they made good hunts of 
furr bearing animals and procured woollen clothing. Thus 
armed the houses of the Beavers were pierced through, the 
Dams cut through, and the water of the Ponds lowered, or 
wholly run off, and the houses of the Beaver and their Borrows 
laid dry, by which means they became an easy prey to the 

The Beaver ^ is an animal well known ; the average weight 
of a full grown male is about fifty five pounds, his meat is 
agreeable to most although fat and oily ; the tail is a deli- 
cacy. They are always in pairs, and work together, their 
first business is to insure a sufficient depth and extent of 
water for the winter ; and if nature has not done this for 
them, they make dams to obtain it. If there are more famiHes 
than one in a piece of water, they all work together, each 
appearing to labor on a particular part. 

The Dam is made of, pieces of wood laid obhque 
to the direction of the dam. The wood employed is always of 
Aspin, Poplar or large Willow and Alders ; if Pine is used it 
is through necessity, not by choice ; the bottom is well laid, 
and if small stones are at hand, they make use of them for 
the bottom of the Dam, the earth is brought between their 
fore paws and throat, laid down, and by several strokes of 
the tail made compact : the pieces of wood, are with their 
1 Castor canadensis Kuhl. [E. A. P.] 


teeth, which are ver)^ sharp, and formed Hke small chissels, 
cut into the lengths they want, brought to the dam, and 
worked in, and thus the Dam is raised to the height required. 
It is a remark of many, that Dams erected by the art of Man 
are frequently damaged, or wholly carried away by violent 
freshets, but no power of water has ever carried away a 
Beaver Dam. Having secured a sufficient depth of water 
each family builds a separate house, this is in the form of a 
low dome : from the door way which is a little way in the 
water, gradually rising to about thirty inches in height and 
about six feet in diameter ; the materials are the same as 
those of the Dam, and worked in the same manner, only the 
pieces of wood are much shorter, and if at hand, small flat 
stones are worked in. And the coating of the first year may 
be about four to five inches thick and every year an additional 
coat is added, until it is a foot, or more, in thickness. Grass 
then grows upon it, and it looks like a little knowl. The next 
work is to make Burrows of retreat ; the first year seldom 
more than one, or two can be made, and sometimes none ; 
these are carried on, from a few inches below the surface of 
the water, direct from it, gradually rising, of about a foot in 
height by twenty inches in breadth, so that a Beaver can 
turn in them ; their length depends on their easiness of 
digging the ground. The general length is about ten feet, but 
in good earth they often are of twenty feet, or more. The 
second and third years the numbers of Burrows are augmented 
to five or six, and where the Beaver have been a long time, 
the Ponds, and small Lakes have numerous burrows. 

The Indians think the Male and Female are faithful to 
each other, they bring up their young for the first year with 
care and protection, until the next spring when the female 
is about to litter she drives them all away, and some of them, 
before they can be made to stay away, receive severe cuts on 
the back from the teeth of the old ones. The young Beavers 
are very playful, and whimper like children. The Beaver is 


supposed to attain to the age of fifteen years, some think to 
twenty years. The Beaver Hunter is often at a loss what to 
do, and sometimes passes a whole day without coming to a 
determination ; his shortest and surest way, is to stake up 
the door way of the house, the stakes he carries with him 
ready for the purpose, but the Beaver are so watchful that 
his approach is heard and they retire to their burrows. Some 
prefer, first finding the burrows and closing them up with 
stakes and cutting off all retreat from the house ; whichever 
method he takes, difficulties and hard labor attends him. To 
determine the place of the Beavers, for the whole family of 
seven, or nine, are seldom all found in the house, the Indian 
is greatly assisted by a peculiar species of small Dog, of a 
light make, about three feet in height, muzzle sharp, and 
brown, full black eyes, with a round brown spot above each 
eye, the body black, the belly of a fawn color, it's scent very 
keen, and almost unerring. This Dog points out by smeUing 
and scratching, the weakest part of the Beaver House, and 
the part where they lie ; the same in the burrows, which are 
then doubly staked ; the Indian with his Axe and Ice Chissel 
makes a hole over the place shown by the Dog, the Beaver 
has changed it's place, to find to which end of the burrow 
it is gone, a crooked stick is employed until it touches the 
Beaver ; another hole is made, and the Beaver is killed with 
the Ice Chissel, which has a heavy handle of about seven 
feet in length. When the dog smells and scratches at two, 
or three places on the beaver house, it is a mark that there 
are several in it. The door way being doubly staked, the 
Indian proceeds to make a hole near the centre of it, to give 
fiill range to his ice chissel, and not one escapes, but all [are 
killed] with hard labor : Such was the manner of killing the 
Beaver until the introduction of Steel Traps, which baited 
with Castorum soon brought on the almost total destruction 
of these numerous and sagacious animals. 

From this long digression, I return to my travels in the 


Nut Hill ; on a fine afternoon in October, the leaves beginning 
to fall with every breeze, a season to me of pleasing melan- 
choly, from the reflections it brings to the mind ; my guide 
informed me that we would have to pass over a long beaver 
Dam ; I naturally expected we should have to load our 
Horses carefully over it ; when we came to it, we found it a 
narrow stripe of apparently old solid ground, with short 
grass, and wide enough for two horses to walk abreast : we 
passed on, the lower side showed a descent of seven feet, and 
steep, with a rill of water from beneath it. The side of the 
dam next to the water was a gentle slope. To the south- 
ward was a sheet of water of about one mile and a half square 
of area, surrounded by moderate, low grassy banks, the 
Forests mostly of Aspin and Poplar but very numerous 
stumps of the trees cut down and partly carried away by the 
Beavers. In two places of this Pond were a cluster of Beaver 
Houses, like miniature villages. When we had proceeded 
over more than half way of the Dam, which was a full mile 
in length, we came to an aged Indian, his arms folded across 
his breast ; with a pensive countenance, looking at the 
Beavers swiming in the water, and carrying their winter's 
provisions to their houses, his form tall and erect, his hair 
almost white, which was almost the only effect that age 
appeared to have on him, though we concluded he must be 
about eighty years of age, and in this opinion we were after- 
wards confirmed by the ease and readiness with which he 
spoke of times long past. I enquired of him how many 
beaver houses there were in the pond before us, he said. 
There are now fifty two, we have taken several of their 
houses ; they are difficult to take, and those we have taken 
were by means of the noise of the water on their houses from 
a strong wind which enabled us to stake them in, otherwise 
they would have retired to their burrows, which are very 
many. He invited us to pass the night at his tent which was 
close by, the Sun was low, and we accepted the offer. 


In the Tent was an old man, almost his equal in age with 
women and -children ; we preferred the open air, and made a 
good fire to which both of the old men came, and after 
smoking a while conversation came on. As I had always 
conversed with the Natives as one Indian with another, and 
been attentive to learn their traditions on the animals on 
Mankind, and on other matter in ancient times, and the 
present occasion appeared favorable for this purpose. Setting 
aside questions and answers which would be tiresome ; they 
said, by ancient tradition of which they did not know the 
origen the Beavers had been an ancient people, and then 
lived on the dry land ; they were always Beavers, not Men, 
they were wise and powerful, and neither Man, nor any animal 
made war on them. 

They were well clothed as at present, and as they did not 
eat meat, they made no use of fire, and did not want it. 
How long they lived this way we cannot tell, but we must 
suppose they did not live well, for the Great Spirit became 
angry with them, and ordered Weesaukejauk to drive them 
all into the water and there let them live, still to be wise, 
but without power ; to be food and clothing for man, and 
the prey of other animals, against all which his defence shall 
be his dams, his house and his burrows : You see how strong 
he makes his dams, those that we make for fishing wiers are 
often destroyed by the water, but his always stands. His 
House is not made of sand, or loose stones, but of strong 
earth with wood and sometirdes small stones ; and he makes 
burrows to escape from his enemies, and he always has his 
winter stock of provisions secured in good time. When he 
cuts down a tree, you see how he watches it, and takes care 
that it shall not fall on him. " But if so wise, for what 
purpose does the Beaver cut down large trees of which he 
makes no use whatever." We do not know, perhaps an 
itching of his teeth and gums. 

The old Indian paused, became silent, and then in a low 


tone [they] talked with each other ; after which he continued 
his discourse. I have told you that we believe in years long 
passed away, the Great Spirit was angry with the Beaver, 
and ordered Weesaukejauk (the Flatterer) to drive them all 
from the dry land into the water ; and they became and 
continued very numerous ; but the Great Spirit has been, 
and now is, very angry with them and they are now all to be 
destroyed. About two winters ago Weesaukejauk showed to 
our brethren, the Nepissings and Algonquins the secret of 
their destruction ; that all of them were infatuated with the 
love of the Castorum of their own species, and more fond of 
it than we are of fire water. We are now killing the Beaver 
without any labor, we are now rich, but [shall] soon be poor, 
for when the Beaver are destroyed we have nothing to depend 
on to purchase what we want for our families, strangers now 
over run our country with their iron traps, and we, and they 
will soon be poor : 

The Indian is not a materialist, nor does he believe in 
Instinct, a word of civilized man, which accounts for great 
part of the actions of Mankind, and of all those of animated 
nature ; the Indian beHeves that every animal has a soul 
which directs all it's motions, and governs all it's actions ; 
even a tree, he conceives must somehow be animated, though 
it cannot stir from it's place. Some three years ago (1797) 
the Indians of Canada and New Brunswick, on seeing the 
Steel Traps so successful in catching Foxes and other animals, 
thought of applying it to the Beaver, instead of [using] the 
awkward traps they made, which often failed ; At first they 
were set in the landing paths of the Beaver, with about four 
inches of water on them, and a piece of green aspin for a 
bait, and in this manner more were caught than by the 
common way ; but the beaver paths made their use too 
limited and their ingenuity was employed to find a bait that 
would allure the Beaver to the place of the trap ; various 
things and mixtures of ingredients were tried without success ; 


but chance made some try if the male could not be caught 
by adding the Castorum of the female ; a mixture of this 
Castorum beat up with the green buds of the aspin was 
made. A piece of dry willow of about eight inches in length 
beat and bruised fine, was dipped in the mixture, it was 
placed at the water edge about a foot from the steel trap, 
so that the Beaver should pass direct over it and be caught ; 
this bait proved successful, but to the surprise of the Indians, 
the females were caught as well as the males : The secret of 
this bait was soon spread, every Indian procured from the 
Traders four to six steel traps, the weight of one was about 
six to eight pounds ; all labor was now at an end, the Hunter 
moved about at pleasure with his traps and infalHble bait of 
Castorum. Of the infatuation of this animal for Castorum 
I saw several instances. A trap was negligently fastened by 
its small chain to the stake to prevent the Beaver taking away 
the trap when caught ; it slipped, and the Beaver swam away 
with the trap, and it was looked upon as lost. Two nights 
after he was taken in a trap with the other trap fast to his 
thigh. Another time, a Beaver passing over a Trap to get 
the Castorum, had his hind leg broke, with his teeth he cut 
his broken leg off, and went away, we concluded he would 
not come again, but two nights afterwards, he was found 
fast in a trap. In every case the Castorum is taken away. 
The stick with this, was always licked, or sucked clean, and 
seemed to act as a suporific, as they remained more than a 
day, without coming out of their houses. 

The Nepissings, the Algonquins and Iroquois Indians 
having exhausted their own countries, now spread themselves 
over these countries, and as they destroyed the Beaver, 
moved forwards to the northward and westward ; the Natives, 
the Nahathaways, did not in the least molest them ; the 
Chippaways and other tribes made use of Traps of Steel ; 
and of the Castorum. For several years all these Indians 
were rich, the Women and Children, as well as the Men, 


were covered with silver brooches, Ear Rings, Wampum, 
Beads and other trinkets. Their mantles were of fine scarlet 
cloth, and all was finery and dress. The Canoes of the 
Furr Traders were loaded with packs of Beaver, the abundance 
of the article lowered the London prices. Every intelligent 
Man saw the poverty that would follow the destruction of 
the Beaver, but there were no Chiefs to controul it ; all 
was perfect liberty and equaUty. Four years afterwards (I797) 
almost the whole of these extensive countries were denuded 
of Beaver, the Natives became poor, and with difficulty pro- 
cured the first necessaries of life, and in this state they remain, 
and probably for ever. A worn out field may be manured, 
and again made fertile ; but the Beaver, once destroyed 
cannot be replaced : they were the gold coin of the country, 
with which the necessaries of life were purchased. 

It would be worth while for some Gentleman who has 
nothing to do ; to look at the sales by auction ; the number 
of skins by private sale ; and otherwise disposed of, to count 
the number of Beavers that have been killed, and procured 
from the northern part of this Continent. 

We now journeyed to a trading House in charge of M"" 
Thorburn,^ in Latitude 50-28-58 N and Longitude 101-45-45 

^ I have never visited the site of this old trading post, but Thompson's 
survey and observations place it on the bank of the Qu'Appelle river. 
It was built by a Canadian trader named Robert Grant about the year 
1787, and was named by him Fort Esperance. It, or some fort in the im- 
mediate vicinity, was continuously occupied thereafter for many years. 
Its chief trade was with the Assiniboin Indians for buffalo meat. 
William Thorburn, who was in charge of it at this time, was doubtless 
the same man who was in charge of a post on the Saskatchewan river 
when Thompson passed down it in 1794 ; and in 1797 his name is among 
the list of partners of the North-West Company as in charge of Red river. 
From this trading post Thompson travelled south-eastward across the 
plains towards the mouth of the Souris river, and in his journal he notes 
that he passed an " old fort," doubtless Mountain a la Bosse, which John 
McDonnell, writing about 1797, says "has been frequently established 
and as often abandoned, owing to the oppositions that came into that 
quarter." It was situated on the south bank of the Assiniboine river, 
east of the mouth of Gopher Creek, in Sect. 11 or 12, Tp. 10, R. 25, west of 


West, in a course S 7 E 68 Miles. Having settled the position 
of this place, we proceeded down the Stone Indian River to 
the House in charge of M' John M'^Donell,^ in Latitude 
49-40-56 N Longitude 99-27-15 West, on a course S 69 E 
131 miles. These distances in a straight line are along the 
banks of the Stone Indian River, about thirty yards in breadth, 
but deriving it's water from rains and Snows, is of various 
depths, according to the seasons ; in autumn [it is] always 

the Principal Meridian, between two and three miles south of the village 
of Routledge on the main line of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The 
situation was a striking one on the point of a level grassy plain which 
jutted out into the valley at an elevation of 200 feet above the river. 
The fort would appear to have been enclosed by a stockade 200 by 250 
feet on the sides ; and within the enclosure were a number of houses for 
the officers and men. 

1 John McDonnell was a brother of Miles McDonnell, the first Gover- 
nor of the Red River colony under Lord Selkirk. He became a partner 
of the North-West Company about 1796, and remained in the North- 
West until 1 81 5, when he sold out and settled in the township of Hawkes- 
bury, in the province of Quebec, where he died and was buried in the 
Roman Catholic cemetery. See Masson, Les Bourgeois de la Compagnie 
du Nord-Ouest, vol. i., Quebec, 1889, pp. 267-295. 

The trading post which was occupied by McDonnell was situated on 
the north bank of the Assiniboine (Stone Indian) river, about two miles 
above the mouth of the Souris or Mouse river, in the north-east quarter 
of Sect. 19, Tp. 8, R. 16, west of the Principal Meridian, and three miles 
north of Banting on the south-western branch of the Canadian Pacific 
Railway. The site was visited by me in 1890, and at that time evidences 
of the existence of this post could be seen on a grassy prairie about four 
or five acres in extent, surrounded by a forest of small aspen poplar, near 
a ford where an old, but well-defined, trail crosses the river. The site of 
the post was marked by pits and mounds which represented the cellars 
and chimneys of the houses. 

The ruins of another old trading post, possibly one that had belonged 
to the Hudson's Bay Company, were said to be clearly marked at a place 
about two miles and a half farther up the stream, and also on its north 
bank, in Sect. 35, Tp. 8, R. 17. On the south side of the Assiniboine river 
the remains of two other trading establishments were found in the same 
year, about half a mile apart. Around these little forts the lines of the 
palisades, with their bastions and gateways, could readily be traced, and 
within the stockades were the remains of the cellars and chimneys of a 
number of houses. Pieces of burnt clay that had evidently been between 
the logs of which the houses had been built, showed that the houses had 
been destroyed by fire. 


shoal. Its course is on the east side of the great Plains, and 
the south west side of the low Hills, from whence it receives 
several Brooks, and from the Plains the Calling River and a 
few brooks. Its course is very sinuous, this, with it's shoals, 
detains the Canoes for the upper trading Houses to late in 
the season ; From M' Grant's to M' John M'^Donell the 
distance is in a direct line near two hundred miles which the 
windings of the River increases to near six hundred miles. 
This River everywhere flows thro' a pleasant country of good 
soil, and in time to come will no doubt, be covered with 
agricultural population ; The Bison, the Moose and the Red 
Deer with two species of the Antelope, give to the Nahatha- 
way Indians, an easy subsistence ; but in a short time the 
only furrs they will have to buy the necessities they want, 
and cannot now do without, are the Wolf,^ Fox,^ Badger,^ and 
Musk Rat,* with the dried meat of the Bison and Deer. The 
Stone Indians, a numerous tribe of the Sieux Nation possess 
the country southward and westward of this River, to the 
Missisourie River, but this latter in common with several 
other Tribes. They are friendly to the white people, a fine 
looking race of Men and Women, but most noted Horse 
thieves of the Horses of other Tribes. It is said of a York- 
shire man " Give him a bridle, and he will find a horse " ; 
but these will find both the bridles and the Horses. 

We remained with M" John M^Donell twelve days : in 
which time I put my journal, surveys and sketches of the 
countries that were in black lead into ink ; and having sealed 
them up directed them to the Agents of the North West 

^ Canis nubilus Say. [E. A. P.] 

2 Vulpes fulva regalis Merriam. [E. A. P.] 

' Taxidea taxus (Schreber). [E. A. P.] 

* Fiber zibethicus cinnamominus Hollister. [E. A, P.] 



Start for Mandane Villages — Ventures — Cross Stone Indian 
River — Journal — Warned by Stone Indians to be on our 
guard against the Sieux — Take great Traverse to Turtle 
Hills — Jlsh House — Camp of Stone Indians — Massacre in 
1794 — P^^^^ i'^ 1802 — Storm on the Plains — Men Lost — 
All day in camp — Buffalo Hunt — Reach Mouse River — 
Follow Mouse River — Elbow of Mouse River — Sieux 
Indian war party — Dog Tent Hills — Missisourie Reached. 

HAVING made our preparations for a journey to the 
Mandane Villages on the banks of the Missisourie 
River ; on the zS'*" November 1797, we set off.^ 
Our guide and interpreter, who had resided eight years in 
their Villages was a Mons"" Rene Jussomme who fluently 
spoke the Mandane Language. M'' Hugh M^'Crachan, a 
good hearted Irishman, who had been often to the Villages, 
and resided there for weeks and months ; and seven french 
Canadians, a fine, hardy, good humoured sett of Men, fond 
of full feeding, willing to hunt for it, but more wiUing to 
enjoy it : When I have reproved them, for what I thought 
Gluttony, eating full eight pounds of fresh meat p"^ day, they 
have told me, that, their greatest enjoyment of hfe was 
Eating. They are all extremely ignorant, and without the 
least education, and appear to set no value on it. All these 

^ The names of the men who accompanied Thompson on this journey 
are given by him in his note-books as follows : " Rene Jussomme, Joseph 
Boisseau, Hugh McCraken, Alexis Vivier, Pierre Gilbert, Fra» Perrault, 
Tousst Vandril, L» Jos. Houl, J. B** Minie." For references to these 
men, see Coues, New Light, p. 301, &c. 

209 o 


excepting my servant man, A. Brosseau, who had been a 
soldier, were free traders on their own account for this journey, 
each of them on credit from M*^ M'^Donell, took a venture in 
goods and trinkets to the amount of forty to sixty skins to 
be paid in furrs, by trading with the natives of the Villages. 
I was readily supplied with every thing I required which was 
chiefly ammunition, tobacco and a few trinkets for expenses. 
For my service I had two Horses. Mons'^ Jussomme had one, 
and the men thirty dogs, their own property, each two hauled 
a flat sled upon which their venture was lashed ; these Dogs 
had all been traded from the Stone Indians, who make great 
use of them in their encampments. They were all like half 
dog, half wolf, and always on the watch to devour every thing 
they could get their teeth on ; they did not [do] willing 
work, and most of them had never hauled a flat sled, but the 
Canadians soon break them in, by constant flogging, in which 
they seem to take great delight ; when on the march the noise 
was intolerable, and made me keep two or three miles ahead. 

As my journey to the Missisourie is over part of the 
Great Plains, I shall give it in the form of a journal, this 
form, however duU, is the only method in my opinion, that 
can give the reader a clear idea of them. With our three 
Horses and thirty Dogs with their Sleds, we crossed the Stone 
River on the ice ; the Snow on the ground was three inches 
in depth. We went about six miles and put up in the woods 
of the Mouse River,^ which joins the Stone Indian River 
about two miles below the House. The dogs unused to 
hauling going any where, and every where from the Men, 
who employed themselves all the way in swearing at, and 
flogging them ; until we put up, when the Dogs were un- 
harnessed, a piece of line tied round the neck of each, and 
one, or both fore feet were brought through it, to keep them 
quiet and from straying away. At 8 pm the Thermometer 
20 degrees below zero. 

' Souris river. 


November 29'*". A westerly breeze, at 7 am 27 below 
zero, the Men thought it too cold to proceed. 

November 30"'. 7 am 32 being 64 degrees below the 
freezing point. 9 pm 36 too cold to proceed over the open 
plains : and certainly an intensity of cold not known on the 
same parallel of Latitude near the Mountains. Necessity 
obliged us to hunt the Bison, we killed two Bulls, we could 
bring only half the meat to the Tent, which satisfied our- 
selves and the Dogs. 

December i*'. A WSW Gale. Thermometer 37 below 
Zero. We could not proceed but had the good fortune to 
kill a good Bison Cow which kept us in good humour. The 
severe cold and high wind made the Tent very smoky, so 
that, notwithstanding the bad weather, we walked about in 
the woods the greatest part of the day, and when in the Tent 
we had to lie down. 

December 2"*^. At 8 am Ther 36, at 8 pm 15, the wind 
WSW. We killed a Bison Cow, which kept the Dogs quiet. 

December y^. At 8 am 3, at 8 pm 3 the weather was 
now mild but a WNW Gale came on with snow and high 
drift [so] that we could not see a fourth a mile from us. And 
our journey is over open plains from one patch of Wood to 
another patch ; for the Mouse River, on which we are 
camped, has Woods only in places, and many miles distant 
from each other. And these patches of Wood must be kept 
in sight to guide over the plains and none of the Men knew 
the use of the Compass, and did not like to trust it. We 
could not proceed and the Tent was disagreeable with smoke. 

December 4'**. 7 am 4 above Zero WSW gale of Wind. 
At 9 AM we set off, and went eleven miles to a grove of Oaks,^ 
Ash,^ Elm,® Nut * Trees, and other hard Woods ; which are 

* Quevcus macvocarpa Michx. [E. A. P.J 

* Fraxinus. [E. A. P.] 

' Ulmus americana Linn. [E. A, P.] 

* Probably Hickory, Hicoria, species uncertain. [E. A. P.] 


always the Woods of this River : At this place we came to 
five Tents of Stone Indians, who as usual received us with 
kindness ; they did not approve of our journey to the Missi- 
sotirie : and informed us, that some skirmishes had taken 
place between the Mandane and Sieux Indians in which the 
latter lost several Men, which they attributed to the Ammuni- 
tion furnished to the former by the trading parties from the 
Stone Indian River, such as ours were ; and that they had 
determined to way lay us, and plunder us of aU we had, and 
also take all our scalps, and [they] warned us to be on our 
guarde ; I did not hke this news, but the Men paid no atten- 
tion to it, thinking it proceeded from hatred to the Mandanes. 
We then followed the River banks for seven miles, and camped 
at 4 PM. The River is about twenty yards wide, at present 
the water very low. 

December 5'*'. 7 am Ther 13 below zero, became mild, 
in the afternoon a WSW Gale came on and increased to a 
Storm by 6 pm. Mons"" Jussomme, our Guide, informed us, 
that he would now take the great traverse to the Turtle Hill ; 
we were early up, and by yi am set off : he led us about 
South four miles to a small grove of Aspins on the banks of a 
brook thence about six miles to the Turtle Brook from the 
Hill ; thence S by W seven miles ; we now came on a rising 
ground at i pm. but the Turtle Hill was not in sight ; and 
all before and around us a boundless plain; and Mons' 
Jussomme could not say where we were ; the weather 
appeared threatening and preparing for a Storm ; our situa- 
tion was alarming : and anxiety [was] in the face of every 
man, for we did not know to which hand to turn ourselves 
for shelter : I mounted my Horse and went to the highest 
ground near us, and with my telescope viewed the horizon 
aU around, but not the least vestige of woods appeared ; but 
at due North West from us, where there appeared the tops 
of a few Trees like Oaks. They anxiously enquired if I saw 
Woods. I told them what I had seen, and that with my old 


Soldier I should guide myself by the Compass, and directly 
proceed as the Woods were far off ; M^'Crachan and a 
Canadian joined us ; the other six conferred among them- 
selves what to do, they had no faith in the Compass on land, 
and thought best to march in some direction until they 
could see woods with their own eyes ; but had not proceeded 
half a mile before all followed us, thinking there would be a 
better chance of safety by being all together. The Gale of 
Wind came on, and kept increasing. The Snow was four to 
six inches in depth with a slight crust on it. We held on 
almost in despair of reaching the Woods ; fortunately the 
Dogs were well broken in, and gave us no trouble. Night 
came upon us, and we had carefully to keep in file, at times 
calling to each other to learn that none were missing. At 
length at 7 pm, thank good Providence, we arrived at the 
Woods, very much fatigued ; walking against the Storm was 
as laborious as walking knee deep in water. We got up our 
tent and placed ourselves under shelter. Although we had 
taken six hours on this last course, yet I found by my 
Observations we had come only thirteen miles. 

December 6'*". A heavy westerly gale of wind with mild 
weather. The Horses and Dogs as well as ourselves were 
too much fatigued to proceed. Two Bison Bulls were 
killed, though very tough, kept away hunger and fed the 

December 7"". At 7 am Ther 25, only five degrees below 
the freezing point, a fine mild day. We proceeded five miles 
up the Mouse River to an old trading House, called " Ash 
House " ^ from the plenty of those fine Trees ; it had to be 
given up, from it's being too open to the incursions of the 
Sieux Indians. Two Stone Indians came to us. They said 

^ Thompson's survey places this post sixteen and a half miles south and 
thirty-nine miles west of McDonnell's House, and his latitude is 40° 27' 
32" N. It was probably near or opposite the village of Hartney in Mani- 
toba, on the Canadian Northern Railway. 


their camp was not far off. Mons' Jussomme's Mare and my 
yellow Horse had both become lame of each one foot, and 
could proceed no further through the Plains, each of these 
Horses had one white foot and three black feet ; the white 
foot of each was lame in the same manner, the hair of the 
white foot was worn away by the hard snow, and a small 
hole in the flesh also above the hoof. The three black feet 
had not a hair off them. My other Horse was dark brown 
with four black feet. As the Horses of this country have no 
shoes, the colour of the hoof is much regarded ; the yellow 
hoof with white hair is a brittle hoof and soon wears away ; 
for this reason, as much as possible, the Natives take only 
black hoofed Horses on their War expeditions. As the camp 
of Stone Indians were going to the house of M"" John M'^Donell 
to trade, we delivered the Horses to the care of an old Indian 
to be taken to the house. Mons"" Jussomme was now without 
a Horse and had to purchase Dogs. 

December 8'*". 7 am Ther 18 below Zero. A cold day 
which was employed in hunting, without success. I observed 
for Latitude and Longitude 

December 9'*^. 7 am Ther 26 below Zero. We went up 
the River SW ']\ miles to eight tents of Stone Indians ; 
who treated us with hospitality, and each of us got a good 
meal. Learning that we were going to the Missisourie, they 
warned us to beware of the Sieux Indians, whom they thought 
would lie in wait for us at the Dog Tent Hills, and [to] keep 
on our guard against a surprise. We offered a high reward 
to a young man to guide us to the Mandane Villages, but 
however tempting the offer, neither himself nor any other 
would accept the offer. They plainly told us that we might 
expect to find the Sieux Indians on our road ; and they were 
not on good terms with the Mandanes. We went about 
three miles and put up in view of the Turtle HiU. We are 
near the place, where in 1794, fifteen Tents of Stone Indians 
were destroyed by a large War Party of Sieux Indians, 


although of the same Nation.^ From their own accounts, 
some forty or fifty years ago a feud broke out, and several 
were killed and wounded on both sides ; about five hundred 
Tents separated from the main body, and took up their 
hunting grounds on the Red River and the Plains stretching 
north westward along the right bank of the Saskatchewan 
River to within 300 miles of the Mountains, and being in 
alliance and strict confederacy with the Nahathaways, who 
accompanied them to war they were powerful, and with their 
allies, made their brethren the Sieux Nation, feel the Weight 
of their resentment for several years, until the small pox of 
1782 came, which involved them all in one common calamity, 
and very much reduced the numbers of all parties. The 
Sieux had lost several of their men, who went to hunt but 
did not return, and suspicion fell on the Stone Indians and 
their allies. They determined on revenge, and the destruction 
of these fifteen Tents was the result. The Sieux afterwards 
found the loss of their Men was by the Chippaways, their 
never ceasing enemies, and deeply regretted what they had 
done ; the old Men made an apology, and proffered peace, 
which was accepted in 181 2, and a reunion took place; and 
in this Peace their allies and confederates were included ; 
and which continues to this day. 

December 10'^. 7 am Ther 20 below zero : The 
hummock of Woods on the Turtle Hill, which was our mark, 
gave our course by the compass S 30° E. As we had to cross 
a plain of twenty two miles, and having felt the severe changes 
of weather, I desired the Men to follow close in file, for 
they now had faith in the Compass. At ji am our bit of 
a caravan set off ; as the Dogs were fresh, we walked at a 
good pace for some time, a gentle south wind arose ; and 
kept increasing ; by 10 am it was a heavy Gale, with high 

^ In his original notes, Thompson says that on December i6 they were 
on the very spot where these fifteen tents of Assiniboin were killed " last 


drift and dark weather, so much so that I had to keep the 
Compass in my hand, for I could not trust to the Wind. 
By Noon, it was a perfect Storm, we had no alternative but 
to proceed, which we did slowly and with great labor, for 
the Storm was ahead, and the snow drift in our faces. Night 
came on, I could no longer see the Compass, and had to trust 
to the Wind ; the weather became mild with small rain, but 
the Storm continued with darkness ; some of the foremost 
called to lie down where we were, but as it was evident we 
were ascending a gentle rising ground, we continued and 
soon, thank good Providence, my face struck against some 
Oak sapHngs, and I passed the word that we were in the 
Woods, a fire was quickly made, and as it was on an elevated 
place it was seen afar off : As yet the only one with me, 
was my servant who led the Horse, and we anxiously awaited 
the others ; they came hardly able to move, one, and then 
another, and in something more than half an hour, nine had 
arrived ; each with Dogs and Sleds, but one Man, and a 
Sled with the Dogs were missing ; to search for the latter 
was useless : but how to find the former, we were at a loss : 
and remained so for another half an hour, when we thought 
we heard his voice, the Storm was still rageing, we extended 
ourselves within call of each other, the most distant man 
heard him plainly, went to him, raised him up, and with 
assistance brought him to the fire, and we all thanked the 
Almighty for our preservation. He told us he became weak, 
fell several times, and at length he could not get up, and 
resigned himself to perish in the storm, when by chance 
hfting up his head he saw the lire, this gave him courage ; 
stand he could not but Qie] shuffled away on hands and 
knees through the snow, bawling with all his might until we 
fortunately heard him. We threw the Tent over some Oak 
sapplings and got under shelter from showers of rain, hail 
and sleet : At Ji pm Ther 36 being four degrees above the 
freezing point ; by a south wind making in little more than 


twelve hours a difference of temperature of fifty six degrees. 
I had weathered many a hard gale, but this was the most 
distressing day I had yet seen. 

December ii"". At 8 am Ther 37, being five degrees 
above the freezing point. A south gale with showers of snow ; 
a mild day, but we were all too tired to proceed. A fine 
grove of Aspins was within thirty yards, which the darkness 
prevented us seeing ; we removed our Tent to it. The 
Dogs and Sled missing belonged to Francis Hoole and the 
value of sixty skins in goods, with all his things were on it, 
but none would accompany him to look for it, although he 
offered the half of all that was on it ; so much was the chance 
of the similar distress of yesterday dreaded. 

December iz'*". Ther 30 two degrees below the freezing 
point. Wind a SSW gale. We went eight miles along the 
north side of the Turtle Hill and put up. We were all very 
hungry, and the Dogs getting weak ; we had seriously to 
attend to hunting ; a small herd of Bulls were not far off, 
and three of us went off to them, the two that were with me 
were to approach by crawling to them, and if they missed, I 
was to give chase on horseback, for which I was ready ; after 
an hour spent in approaching them, they both fired, but 
without effect, the herd started, I gave chase, came up with 
them and shot a tolerable good Bull ; This is the usual 
manner of hunting the Bison by the Indians of the Plains : 
This gave us provisions for the present and the Dogs feasted 
on the offall. 

December 13"*. At 7 am Ther 15 below zero, clear 
weather with a north gale and high drift ; we could not 
proceed, but as usual in clear weather, I observed for Lati- 
tude, Longitude and the Variation of the compass. We took 
the case of Francis Hoole into consideration who had lost his 
Dogs and all his venture ; and each of us agreed to give him 
goods to the value of two beavers, and haul it for him, which 
gave him a venture of eighteen skins, and the Irishman 


M'^Crachan, and myself doubled it. For it was out of his 
power to return alone. 

December 14"". At 7 am Ther 18 below zero. At 8 am 
set off, and kept along the Hill to shorten as much as possible 
the wide Plain we have to cross to the Mouse River. We 
proceeded in a SE course about seventeen miles ; and put 
up, the day fine, though cold : As this was the last place 
where Poles to pitch the Tent could be got, we cut the number 
required of dry Aspin to take with us. 

December 15'^. At 7 am Ther 21 below zero. Having 
no provisions, part of the Men went a hunting, and managed 
to kill an old Bull, who preferred fighting to running away ; 
after boiling a piece of it for three hours, it was still too 
tough to be eaten, but by those who have sharp teeth, the 
tripe of a Bull is the best part of the animal. 

December 16'^. At 7 am Ther 19 below zero. We could 
go no further along the Turtle Hill, and had to cross a wide 
Plain to a grove of Oaks on the Mouse River ; the wind 
blowing a North Gale with drift, the Men were unwilling to 
proceed having suffered so much, but as [the] wind was on 
our backs I persuaded them to follow me, and at 8.20 am 
we set [out], and safely arrived at the Grove ; our course 
S by W nineteen miles. On our way we fortunately killed 
a fat Cow Bison, which was a blessing, for we had not tasted 
a bit of good meat for many days, and we had nothing else 
to subsist on. In the evening our conversation turned on 
the Sieux waylaying us : for we were approaching the Dog 
Tent Hills, where we were to expect them, and our situation 
with so many dogs and loaded sleds to take care of, was in a 
manner defenceless, but we had proceeded too far to return, 
my hopes lay in the lateness of the season, and the effects 
the stormy weather must have on a War Party, who frequently 
take no Tents with them : The last camp of Stone Indians 
advised us to leave the usual road ; cut wood, and haul it 
with us to make a fire for two nights, and boldly cross to the 


Missisourie, which could be done in three days, but this was 
too much dreaded to be followed. In the evening a very 
heavy gale came on from the NW**. We were thankful that 
we had crossed the Plain, and were well sheltered in a grove 
of tall Oaks. 

December 17'^. At 7 am Ther 22 below zero, at 9 pm 
Ther 23 below zero. NW Gale with snow drift. Too cold 
to proceed. 

December 18'^. At 7 am Ther 32 below zero. 2 pm 7 
below zero, too cold to proceed although a fine clear day. 
We saw a herd of Cows about a mile from the tent, we 
crawled to them, and killed three, then went to the tent, 
harnessed the dogs to bring the meat. While we were 
busy, a dreadful Storm came on, fortunately an aft wind, 
had it been a head wind, we could not have reached the 

December 19"". At 7 am Ther 17 below zero. 9 pm 
24 below zero. All day a dreadful Storm from the west- 
ward, with high drift. The Sky was as obscure as night, the 
roaring of the wind was like the waves of the stormy sea on 
the rocks. . It was a terrible day, in the evening the Storm 
abated. My men attributed these heavy gales of wind and 
their frequency to the lateness of the season ; but this cannot 
be the cause for no such stormy winds are known to the 
westward ; here are no hills worth notice, all is open to the 
free passage of the winds from every quarter ; for my part I 
am utterly at a loss, to account for such violent winds on this 
part of the Plains, and this may account for the few Bison 
we have seen, and the smallness of the herds, which rarely 
exceed twenty ; whereas to the westward, and near the 
Mountains the ground is covered with them, and hitherto 
we have not seen the track of the Deer, and even a Wolf is 
a rare animal, as for Birds we have seen none : even the 
long, strong winged Hawks are not known. What can be the 
cause of these Storms, and the severe cold of this country. 


Our Latitude is now 48 . 9 . l6 North, Longitude 100 . 34 . 12 
West, which ought to have a milder cHmate 

December 20"". At 7 am ^ below zero. NNW breeze, 
though very cold, yet a fine day. At 9^- am we set off, and 
went up along the Mouse River, about South, thirteen 
miles, and at 3-J- pm put up close to the River. The Woods 
are of Oak, Ash, Elm and some other hard woods, mixed with 
Poplar and Aspin but no Pines : When the grass is set on 
fire in the summer, which is too often the case, all the above 
woods, except the Aspin, have a thick coat of Bark around 
them, to which the grass does Httle, or no injury ; but the 
thin bark of the Aspin however slightly scorched prevents 
the growth of the Tree, and it becomes dry, and makes the 
best of fuel, having very Httle smoke. 

December 21*'. A stormy morning with snow to 11 am 
then clear and fine. We could not proceed as Hugh 
M^'Crachan was taken ill. An old Bull was killed for the 
Dogs. At 7 PM Ther 26 below zero. 

December 22"**. At 7 am Ther 32 below zero, NW 
breeze and clear, keen cold day. At S-J- am we set off, still 
following up the River, SSW^ for fifteen miles and put up. 
Where there are Woods along this River ; they are in narrow 
ledges of forty, to one hundred yards in width. All the rest 
are the boundless Plains. 

December 23^*^. A cloudy, cold day, with snow until 
noon, when it became fine and clear. We set off up along 
the River SW twelve miles and camped : Three Men went 
ahead to hunt, they killed four Bulls, no Cows in sight. We 
have now plenty to eat, but very tough meat, so much so, 
we get fairly tired eating before we can get a belly full. We 
are now at the Elbow of the Mouse River ^ and can follow it 
no farther ; as the River now comes from the northwestward 

* The latitude given in Thompson's notes is 48° 9' 15" N. He must 
have left the Souris river about the present site of the village of Villard, 
in McHenry county, in North Dakota. 


and is mostly bare of Woods. Although a small Stream of 
fifteen yards in breadth, it has every where, like all the 
Rivers of the Plains, double banks : the first bank is that 
which confines the stream of water, and [is] generally about 
ten to twenty feet in height ; then on each side is a level 
of irregular breadth, generally called Bottom, of thirty to 
six hundred yards in breadth, from which rises steep, grassy 
sloping banks to the heights of sixty to one hundred feet 
which is the common level of the Plain. Large rivers have 
often three banks to the level of the Plain. It is in these 
Bottoms that the Trees grow, and are sheltered from the 
Storms : for on the level of the Plain, it is not possible a 
tree can grow but v/here the Bottoms are wide enough, the 
Trees come to perfection : here I measured Oaks of eighteen 
feet girth, tall and clean grown, the Elm, Ash, Beach [Birch] 
and Bass Wood,^ with Nut Trees were in full proportion. For 
these Bottoms have a rich soil from the overflowing of the 

December 24'''. Wind south, a steady breeze, with low 
drift, fine mild weather. At Sf am we set off, and went 
ESE i a mile to the heights of the River ; and in sight of 
the Dog Tent Hill ;^ our course to a Ravine was S 48 W 19 
miles ; across a plain, the ground was undulating in form, 
without any regular valHes ; but has many knolls ; as we 
approached the Hill, we anxiously kept our eyes on it, being 
the place the Sieux Indians were to way lay us : About 
2 PM I perceived something moving on the ridge of the hill, 
and by my Telescope, saw a number of Horsemen riding to 
the southward ; I made signs to the men to lie down which 
they did, after watching their motions for about ten minutes ; 
I saw plainly they did not see us, and rode descending the 
west side of the Hill, and were soon out of sight ; thus kind 
Providence, by the Storms, and lateness of the season saved 

^ Tilia americana (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 
' Now known as Dog Den Butte. 


our lives and property.^ About a Month after, the Stone 
Indians informed M"" M^'Donell, that the above with the want 
of provisions were the occasion of their leaving the Hill ; 
and they would return. From the eastward, the Dog Tent 
Hill (by the Stone Indians Sungur Teebe) has the appear- 
ance of an irregular bank of about 200 feet above the level of 
the east Plains, in steep slopes of hard gravelly soil ; with 
nine or ten gullies, or ravines, each has a small spring of 
water, with a few Oak and Elm Trees in their bottoms ; we 
put up at 4^- PM at the western spring and it's few trees of 
Oak and Elm. At 7 pm Ther 15 below Zero. 

December 26"*. 7 am Ther 76 below zero. Noon Ther 2, 
at 8 PM 2 above zero. Early a terrible Storm arose from 
SSW and raged all day ; the sound of the wind was like the 
waves of the sea on a shoal shore. Joseph Houle killed a 
good Cow but could only bring some of the meat on his back. 

December 27*^. At 7 am Ther 5 at noon 20 at 9 pm 25 
above zero. The day was clear with a heavy gale from WSW. 
We could not proceed and had no success in hunting. We 
cut fire wood to take with us ; for we had learned the Man- 
danes and Pawnees, were hostile to each [other], and a large 
Village of the latter was but a short distance below the 
former, and it was to this Village we were journeying ; and 
having very frequently conversed with Mess" Jussomme and 
M'^Crachan, on the Roads, the customs and the manners of 
the several Tribes of Indians of these countries I became 
acquainted with what we had to expect ; in our defenceless 
state I was determined to avoid any collision with the Natives 
that were hostile to us. And with the consent of all the 
Men, took the resolution, to come on the Missisourie River 
several miles above the lower Mandane Village, and to do 
this we had a march of two days across the open Plains. 

December 28"'. At 7 am Ther 20 above zero. A fine 

^ In his notes Thompson says that it was on December 28, after he had 
left the Dog Tent Hill, that he saw these Indians. 


clear mild day, thank God. At 7I am we set off taking fire- 
wood and Tent poles with us, and proceeded S 40 W 22 
miles and at 4^ pm, pitched our Tent to pass the night. The 
ground we passed over is far from being level, and with six 
inches of snow, made tiresome walking ; we saw but few 
Bisons, and about an hour before we put up, saw ten or 
twelve Horsemen far on our left. The night was fine. 

December 29'''. A very fine mild day. At 7.20 am we 
set off, and seeing the heights of the Missisourie, changed our 
course to S 25 W 15 miles, to, and down, the heights of the 
River ; and at 3-i- pm put up close to the Stream in a fine 
bottom of hard wood. The country hilly, and tiresome 
walking ; we lost much time, partly in viewing the country, 
but more so in bringing back the Dogs from running after 
the Bisons, of which there were many herds ; An old Bull 
disdained to run away, but fortunately attacked the Sled, 
instead of the Dogs, and would soon have had it in pieces, 
had not the Men made him move off, run he would not. 
About two miles from the River two Fall Indians came to 
us, and killed a good Bull for us : The River is frozen over, 
it's width 290 yards but the water is low. The woods the 
same as those on the Mouse River, with Poplar, Aspin, and 
Birch all of good growth. 

December 30'*". A northerly gale with cloudy weather. 
At 7.40 AM we set off and walked partly on the River ice, 
and partly on the Bottoms S 6 E 6 miles to the upper Village 
of the Fall Indians : S 27 E 7 miles to the principal Village 
of these people. SE li mile to another Village, thence 
S II E 2 miles to the fourth Village and S 55 E one mile to 
the principal Village of the Mandanes.^ 

Thus from bad weather, we have taken thirty three days 

^ These villages were stretched out for eleven and a half miles along 
the banks of the Missouri river, the lowest and largest of them being in 
latitude 47° 17' 22" N. This would place them between Stanton and 
Hancock on the Northern Pacific Railway, in North Dakota. For further 
information regarding these villages, see Coues, New Light. 


to perform a journey of ten days in good weather, but [this] 
has given me the opportunity of determining the Latitude 
of six different places ; and the Longitude of three, on the 
Road to the River. The distance we have gone over is 
238 miles. 

Three of the Men staid at the Fall Indian ^ Villages ; one 
with Manoah a frenchman who has long resided with these 
people ; the rest of us came to the great Village ; and at 
different houses took up our quarters. 

1 In his notes, Thompson speaks of these people as Willow Indians, 
though he says that they were commonly called " flying Fall Indians." 
Later, he evidently confuses them with the Fall or Atsina Indians, who 
were in league with the Blackfeet. 



Chi f pew ay War — Meet the " Big White Man " — Five Villages 
— Stockades — Form of Houses — Population — Weapons — 
Manner of building houses — Furniture — Manoah — Farming 
implements — Produce raised — Meals — Character — Law of 
Retaliation and compounding by presents — Dress — Appear- 
ance — Amusements — Curse of the Mandanes — Annual Cere- 
mony among the Mandanes — Language of Fall Indians — 
Fall Indians. 

THE inhabitants of these Villages, have not been many- 
years on the banks of the Missisourie River : their 
former residence was on the head waters of the 
southern branches of the Red River ; and also along it's 
banks ; where the soil is fertile and easily worked, with their 
simple tools. Southward of them were the Villages of the 
Pawnees, with whom they were at peace, except [for] occa- 
sional quarrels ; south eastward of them were the Sieux 
Indians, although numerous, their stone headed arrows could 
do Httle injury ; on the north east were the Chippeways in 
possession of the Forests ; but equally weak until armed with 
Guns, iron headed arrows and spears : The Chippaways 
silently collected in the Forests ; and made war on the 
nearest Village, destroying it with fire, when the greater part 
of the Men were hunting at some distance, or attacking the 
Men when hunting ; and thus harassing them when ever 
they thought proper. The mischief done, they retreated into 
the forests, where it was too dangerous to search for them. 
The Chippaways had the policy to harrass and destroy the 

225 p 


Villages nearest to them, leaving the others in security. The 
people of this Village removed westward from them, and 
from stream to stream, the Villages in succession, until they 
gained the banks of the Missisourie ; where they have built 
their Villages and remain in peace from the Chippaways, the 
open Plains being their defence. 

Mons' Jussome introduced me to a Chief called the " Big 
White Man " ; which well designated him ; and told him I 
was one of the chiefs of the white men, and did not concern 
myself with trade, which somewhat surprised him, until told 
that my business, was to see the countries, converse with the 
Natives, and see how they could be more regularly supplied 
with Arms, Ammunition and other articles they much 
wanted : this he said would be very good ; as sometimes 
they were many days without ammunition. Our things were 
taken in, and to myself and my servant Joseph Boisseau, was 
shown a bed for each of us. My curiosity was excited by the 
sight of these Villages containing a native agricultural popula- 
tion ; the first I had seen and I hoped to obtain much curious 
information of the past times of these people ; and for this 
purpose, and to get a ready knowledge of their manners and 
customs Mess" Jussomme and M^Crachen accompanied me 
to every Village but the information I obtained fell far 
short of what I had expected ; both of those who accompanied 
me, were illiterate, without any education, and either did not 
understand my questions, or the Natives had no answers to 
give. I shall put together what I saw and what I learned. 
In company with those I have mentioned ; we examined the 
Villages and counted the houses. The upper Village has 
thirty one Houses and seven Tents of Fall Indians. The 
Village next below, is called the Great Village of the above 
people, it contains eighty two Houses, is situated on the 
Turtle River, a short distance above it's confluence with the 
Missisourie. The next Village has fifty two Houses, and is 
also on the Turtle river ; This Village was the residence of 


Manoah. A few houses were of Fall Indians, the other 
Houses were of Mandanes. The fourth Village was on the 
right bank of the Missisourie, of forty houses of Mandanes. 
The fifth and last Village contained one hundred and thirteen 
houses of Mandanes. Except the upper village of the Fall 
Indians, they were all strongly stockaded with Posts of Wood 
of ten to twelve inches diameter ; about two feet in the 
ground and ten feet above it, with numerous holes to fire 
through ; they went round the Village, in some places close 
to the houses ; there were two doorways to each of the 
Stockades, on opposite sides ; wide enough to admit a Man 
on Horseback. I saw no doors, or gates ; they are shut up 
when required, with Logs of wood. 

The houses were all of the same architecture ; the form 
of each, and every one was that of a dome, regularly built ; 
the house in which I resided, was one of the largest : the 
form a circle, probably drawn on the ground by a line from 
the centre ; On this circle was the first tier of boards, a few 
inches in the ground, and about six feet above it, all incHning 
inwards ; bound together on the top by circular pieces of 
wood ; on the outside of about five inches, and on the inside 
of about three inches in width ; and in these were also in- 
serted the lower end of another set of boards of about five 
feet in length ; and bound together on their tops in the 
same manner ; but inclining inwards at a greater angle than 
the lower tier ; and thus in succession, each tier the boards 
were shorter, and more inclined inwards, until they were 
met at the top, by a strong circular piece of wood of about 
three feet diameter ; to which they were fastened ; and 
which served to admit the Hght, and let out the Smoke : 
The house in which I lodged was about fo rty feet in diameter ; 
and the height of the dome about eighteen feet : On the 
outside it was covered with earth in a dry state to the depth 
of four or five inches, and made firm and compact. Every 
house was covered in the same manner. Between each house 


was a vacant space of fifteen to thirty feet. They appeared 
to have no order, otherwise than each house occupying a 
diameter of thirty to forty feet ; and a free space around it 
of an average of twenty feet. On looking down on them, from 
the upper bank of the River, they appeared Hke so many 
large hives clustered together : From what I saw, and the 
best information I could get, the average population of each 
house was about ten souls. The houses of the Mandanes had 
not many children, but it was otherwise with the Fall Indians : 
the former may be taken at eight soul, and the latter, at ten, 
to each House. This will give to the Mandanes for 190 
houses, a population of 1520 souls ; of which they may 
muster about 220 warriors. The Fall Indians of 128 houses, 
and seven tents have a population of 1330 souls, of which 
190 are warriors ; the whole mihtary force of these Villages 
may be about 400 men fit for war. I have heard their force 
estimated at 1000 men, but this was for want of calculation. 

The native Arms were much the same as those that do 
not know the use of Iron, Spears and Arrow headed with 
flint ; which they gladly lay aside for iron ; they appear to 
have adopted the Spear as a favorite weapon. It is a handle 
of about eight feet in length, headed with a flat iron bayonet 
of nine to ten inches in length, sharp pointed, from the point 
regularly enlarging to four inches in width, both sides sharp 
edged ; the broad end has a handle of iron of about four 
inches in length, which is inserted in the handle, and bound 
with small cords ; it is a formidable weapon in the hands of a 
resolute man. Their Guns were few in proportion to the 
number of Men for they have no supplies, but what are 
brought to them by small parties of Men, trading on their 
own account, such as the party with me ; we had ten guns, 
of which the Men traded seven ; and parties of Men of the 
Hudson's Bay Company in the same manner. They had 
Shields of Bull's hide a safe defence against arrows and the 
spear, but of no use against balls. 


They enquired how we buih our houses, as they saw me 
attentively examining the structure of theirs ; when in- 
formed ; and drawing a rough plan of our Villages, with 
Streets parallel to each other, and cross Streets at right 
angles, after looking at it for some time ; they shook their 
heads, and said, In these straight Streets we see no advantage 
the inhabitants have over their enemies. The whole of their 
bodies are exposed, and the houses can be set on fire ; which 
our houses cannot be, for the earth cannot burn ; our houses 
being round shelter us except when we fire down on them, 
and we are high above them ; the enemies have never been 
able to hurt us when we are in our Villages ; and it is only 
when we are absent on large hunting parties that we have 
suffered ; and which we shall not do again. The Sieux 
Indians have several times on a dark stormy night set fire to 
the stockade, but this had no effect on the houses. Their 
manner of building and disposition of the houses, is probably 
the best, for they build for security, not for convenience. 
The floor of the house is of earth, level and compact ; there 
is only one door to each house, this is a frame of wood, 
covered with a parchment Bison skin, of six feet by four 
feet ; so as to admit a horse. To each door was a covered 
porch of about six feet, made and covered like the door. 
On entering the door, on the left sits the master of the house 
and his wife ; on a rude kind of sofa ; covered with Bison 
Robes ; and before is the fire, in a hollow of a foot in depth ; 
and at one side of the fire is a vase of their pottery, or two, 
containing pounded maize, which is frequently stirred with 
a stick, and now and then about a small spoonful of fine ashes 
put in, to act as salt ; and [this] makes good pottage ; when 
they boil meat it is with only water ; and the broth is drank. 
We saw no dried meat of any kind ; and their houses are not 
adapted for curing meat by smoke for although the fire is on 
one side of the house, and not under the aperture, yet there 
is not the least appearance of smoke, and the light from the 


aperture of the dome gave sufficient light within the house. 
Around the walls, frame bed places were fastened, the bottom 
three feet from the ground ; covered with parchment skins 
of the Bison, with the hair on except the front, which was 
open ; for a bed, was a Bison robe, soft and comfortable. 
On the right hand side of the door, were separate Stalls for 
Horses ; every morning the young men take the Horses to 
grass and watch over them to the evening, when they are 
brought in, and get a portion of maize : which keeps them in 
good condition ; but in proportion to the population the 
Horses are few : the Chief with whom I lodged had only 

They do not require so many Horses as the Indians of 
the Plains who frequently move from place to place, yet even 
for the sole purpose of hunting their Horses are too few. 
We paid a visit to Manoah, a french Canadian, who had 
resided many years with these people ; he was a handsome 
man, with a native woman, fair and graceful, for his wife, 
they had no children ; he was in every respect as a Native. 
He was an intelligent man, but completely a Frenchman, 
brave, gay and boastfull ; with his gun in one hand, and his 
spear in the other, he stood erect, and recounted to the 
Indians about us all his warlike actions, and the battles in 
which he had borne a part, to all of which, as a matter of course, 
they assented. From my knowledge of the Indian character, 
it appeared to me he could not live long, for they utterly 
dislike a boastful man. I learned that a few years after, 
coming from a Skirmish, he praised his own courage and 
conduct and spoke with some contempt of the courage of 
those with him, which they did not in the least deserve, and 
for which he was shot. As Manoah was as a Native with 
them I enquired if they had any traditions of ancient times ; 
he said, he knew of none beyond the days of their great, 
great Grandfathers, who formerly possessed aU the Streams 
of the Red River, and head of the Mississippe, where the 


Wild Rice, and the Deer were plenty, but then the Bison 
and the Horse were not known to them : On all these streams 
they had Villages and cultivated the ground as now ; they 
lived many years this way how many they do not know, at 
length the Indians of the Woods armed with guns which 
killed and frightened them, and iron weapons, frequently 
attacked them, and against these they had no defence ; but 
were obliged to quit their Villages, and remove from place 
to place, until they came to the Missisourie River, where our 
fathers made Villages, and the Indians of the Woods no longer 
attacked us ; but the lands here are not so good, as the land 
our fathers left, we have no wild rice, except in a few Ponds, 
not worth attention. Beyond this tradition, such as it is I 
could learn nothing. They at present, as perhaps they have 
always done, subsist mostly on the produce of their agri- 
culture ; and hunt the Bison and Deer,* when these animals 
are near them. They have no other flesh meat ; and the 
skins of these animals serves for clothing. The grounds they 
cultivate are the alluvials of the River, called Bottoms. The 
portion to each family is allotted by a council of old Men, 
and is always more than they can cultivate, for which they 
have but few implements. The Hoe and the pointed Stick 
hardened in the fire are the principal. 

They have but few Hoes of iron ; and the Hoe in general 
use is made of the shoulder blade bone of the Bison or Deer, 
the latter are preferred ; they are neatly fitted to a handle, 
and do tolerable well in soft ground. 

The produce they raise, is mostly Maize (Indian Corn) of 
the small red kind, with other varieties all of which come to 
perfection, with Pumpkins and a variety of small Beans. 
Melons have been raised to their full size and flavor. Every 
article seen in their villages were in clean good order, but the 
want of iron implements Hmits their industry ; yet they 
raise, not only enough for themselves, but also for trade with 
^ Odocoileus hemionus (Rafinesque). [E. A. P.] 


their neighbours. We brought away upwards of 300 pounds 
weight. In sowing their seed, they have to guard against 
the flocks of Rooks/ which would pick up every grain, and 
until the grain sprouts, out, parties of Boys and girls during 
the day are employed to drive them away. During the day 
they appear to have no regular meals ; but after day set the 
evening meal is served with meat ; at this meal, several are 
invited by a tally of wood, which they return, each brings 
his bowl and rude spoon and knife ; the meat is boiled ; 
roasting of it would give a disagreeable smell ; which they 
are carefuU to prevent, allowing nothing to be thrown into 
the fire, and keeping the fireplace very clean. The parties 
invited were generally from seven to ten men ; women are 
never of the party, except the Wife of the master of the house, 
who sometimes joined in their grave, yet cheerful conversa- 
tion. Loud laughter is seldom heard. 

Both sexes have the character of being courteous and kind 
in their intercourse with each other ; in our rambles through 
the villages everything was orderly, no scolding, nor loud 
talking : They look upon stealing as the meanest of vices, 
and think a Robber a far better man than a Thief. They have 
no laws for the punishment of crime, everything is left to 
the injured party, the law of retaliation being in full force. 
It is this law which makes Murder so much dreaded by them, 
for vengeance is as likely to fall on the near relations of the 
murderer, as on himself, and the family of the Relation who 
may have thus suffered, have now their vengeance to take ; 
Thus an endless feud arises ; to prevent such blood shed, 
the murderer, if his Hfe cannot be taken, for he frequently 
absconds ; the old men attempt to compound for the crime 
by presents to the injured party, which are always refused, 
except they know themselves to be too weak to obtain any 
other redress. If the presents are accepted the price of blood 
is paid, and the injured party has no longer any right to take 
^ Probably the Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos Brehm. [E. A. P.] 


the life of the criminal. This law of Retaliation, and com- 
pounding by presents for the life of the murderer, when 
accepted, appears to be the invariable laws with all the 
Natives of North America. 

The dress of the Men is of leather, soft and white. The 
covering for the body is like a large shirt with sleeves, some 
wear the Bison leather with the hair on, for winter dress ; 
with a leather belt ; the leggins of soft white leather, so long 
as to pass over the belt ; their shoes are made of Bison, with the 
hair on ; and always a Bison Robe. The Women's dress is 
a shirt of Antelope or Deer leather, which ties over each 
shoulder, and comes down to the feet, with a belt round the 
waist short leggins to the knee, and Bison Robe shoes, the 
sleeves separate, in which they looked well. Both Men and 
Women are of a stature fully equal to Europeans ; and as 
fair as our french Canadians ; their eyes of a dark hazel, the 
hair of dark brown, or black, but not coarse : prominent nose, 
cheek bones moderate, teeth mouth and chin good ; well 
Hmbed ; the features good, the countenance mild and in- 
telHgent ; they are a handsome people. Their amusements 
are gambling after the manner of the Indians of the Plains. 
They have also their Musicians and dancing Women ; In 
the house of the Chief, in which I staid, every evening, about 
two or three hours after sunset, about forty or fifty men 
assembled. They all stood ; five or six of them were 
Musicians, with a drum, tambour, rattle, and rude flutes ; 
The dancing women were twenty four young women of the 
age of sixteen to twenty-five years. They all came in their 
common dress ; and went into a place set apart for them to 
dress ; and changed to a fine white dress of thin Deer skins, 
with ornamented belts, which showed their shapes almost as 
clearly as a silk dress. 

They formed two rows of twelve each, and were about 
three feet apart ; The musicians were in front of the Men, 
and about fourteen feet from the front row of the Women. 


When the music struck up, part of the Men sung, and the 
Women keeping a straight Hne and respective distance, danced 
with a light step and slow, graceful motion towards the 
Musicians, until near to them when the music and singing 
ceased ; the Women retired in regular line, keeping their 
faces towards the Musicians. A pause of three or four minutes 
ensued, the music struck up, and the dance renewed in the 
same manner ; and thus in succession for the time of about 
an hour. Each dance lasted about ten minutes. There was 
no talking, the utmost decorum was kept ; the Men all 
silently went away ; the dancing Women retired to change 
their dress. They were all courtesans ; a sett of handsome 
tempting women. The Mandanes have many ceremonies, in 
all of which the women bear a part but my interpreter treated 
them with contempt ; which perhaps they merited. 

The curse of the Mandanes is an almost total want of 
chastity : this, the men with me knew, and I found it was 
almost their sole motive for their journey hereto : The goods 
they brought, they sold at 50 to 60 p"" cent above what they 
cost ; and reserving enough to pay their debts, and buy 
some corn ; [they] spent the rest on Women. Therefore we 
could not preach chastity to them, and by experience they 
informed me that siphylis was common and mild. These 
people annually, at least once in every summer, have the 
following detestable ceremony, which lasts three days. The 
first day both sexes go about within and without the Village, 
but mostly on the outside, as if in great distress, seeking for 
persons they cannot find, for a few hours, then sit down and 
cry as if for sorrow, then retire to their houses. The next 
day the same is repeated, with apparent greater distress 
accompanied with low singing. The third day begins with 
both sexes crying (no tears) and eagerly searching for those 
they wish to find, but cannot ; at length tired with this 
folly ; the sexes separate, and the Men sit down on the ground 
in one line, with their elbows resting on their knees, and their 


heads resting on their hands as in sorrow ; The Women 
standing and crying heartily, with dry eyes, form a line 
opposite the Men ; in a few minutes, several Women advance 
to the Men, each of them takes the Man she chooses by the 
hand, he rises and goes with her to where she pleases, and 
they He down together. And thus until none remain, which 
finishes this abominable ceremony. No woman can choose her 
own husband ; but the women who love their husbands lead 
away aged Men. Mess"^ Jussomme and M'^Crachan said they 
had often partaken of the latter part of the third day ; and 
other men said the same. Manoah strongly denied that 
either himself, or his wife had ever taken part in these rights 
of the devil. 

The white men who have hitherto visited these Villages, 
have not been examples of chastity ; and of course reHgion 
is out of the question ; and as to the white Men who have 
no education, and who therefore cannot read, the little 
religion they ever had is soon forgotten when there is no 
Church to remind them of it. 

Fall Indians who also have Villages, are strictly confederate 
with the Mandanes, they speak a distinct language ; and it is 
thought no other tribe of Natives speak it : very few of the 
Mandanes learn it ; the former learn the language of the 
latter, which is a dialect of the Pawnee language. The Fall 
Indians are now removed far from their original country, 
which was the Rapids of the Saskatchewan river, northward 
of the Eagle Hill ; A feud arose between them, and their 
then neighbours, the Nahathaways and the Stone Indians 
confederates, and [they were] too powerful for them, they 
then lived wholly in tents, and removed across the Plains to 
the Missisourie ; became confederate with the Mandanes, 
and from them have learned to build houses, form villages 
and cultivate the ground ; The architecture of their houses 
is in every respect the same as that of the Mandanes, and their 
cultivation is the same : Some of them continue to live in 


tents and are in friendship with the Chyenne Indians, whose 
village was lately destroyed, and now live in tents to the 
westward of them. Another band of these people now dwell 
in tents near the head of this River in alliance with the 
Peeagans and their allies ; The whole tribe of these people 
may be estimated at 2200 to 2500 souls. They are not as 
fair as the Mandanes ; but somewhat taller. Their features, 
like those of the plains have a cast of sterness, yet they are 
cheerful, very hospitable and friendly to each other, and to 
strangers. What has been said of the Mandanes may be said 
of them ; except in regard to Women. The Fall Indians 
exact the strictest chastity of their wives ; adultry is punish- 
able with death to both parties ; though the Woman escapes 
this penalty more often than the man : who can only save 
his life by absconding which, if the woman does not do, she 
suffers a severe beating, and becomes the drudge of the family. 
But those living in the Villages I was given to understand have 
relaxed this law to the man in favor of a present of a Horse, 
and whatever else can be got from him. As they do not 
suffer the hardships of the Indians of the Plains, the Men are 
nearly equal to the Women in number, and few have more 
than two wives, more frequently only one. It always 
appeared to me that the Indians of the Plains did not regard 
the chastity of their wives as a moral law, but as an unalien- 
able right of property to be their wives and the mothers of 
their own children ; and not to be interfered with by another 
Man. The morality of the Indians, may be said to be founded 
on it's necessity to the peace and safety of each other, and 
although they profess to believe in a Spirit of great power, 
and that the wicked are badly treated after death ; yet this 
seems to have no effect on their passions and desires. The 
crimes they hold to be avoided are, theft, treachery arid 

Christianity alone by it's holy doctrines and precepts, by 
it's promises of a happy immortahty, and dreadful punish- 


ments to the wicked, can give force to morality. It alone can 
restrain the passions and desires and guide them to fulfil the 
intentions of a wise, and benevolent Providence. As the 
Missisourie River with all it's Villages and population are 
within the United States, it is to be hoped Missionaries will 
soon find their way to these Villages, and give them a know- 
ledge of Christianity, which they will gladly accept. 



Missisourie River — Start on return journey — Return journey — 
Reach Trading House in safety — Encounter of Trading 
Party with the Sieux — Hugh M'Crachan — Death of Hugh 
M'^Crachan — Route from Stone Indian River House to 
Villages of the Mandanes. 

HAVING made the necessary astronomical observa- 
tions we prepared to depart ; the latitude of the 
Upper Village (Fall Indians) was found to be 
47 . 25 . II North. Longitude loi .21 .5 West of Greenwich. 
The lower Village (Mandanes) Latitude 47 . 17 . 22 North. 
Long*^' loi . 14. 24 W. Variation of the Compass ten degrees 
east. In the language of the natives, Missisourie means, 
" the great troubled, or muddy, River," from the great 
quantity of sediment it contains. Everywhere this river has 
bold banks, often steep, and mostly of earth. Above the 
banks the soil appears hard and dry the bottoms rich and well 
wooded. From the Mountains to it's confluence with the 
Mississippe, following it's course is 3560 miles. The whole 
distance is a continuous River, without meeting, or forming, 
a single Lake ; with very strong current. This River drains 
a area of 442,239 square miles. 

We now set off, our caravan consisted of thirty one Dogs, 

loaded with furrs of Wolves and Foxes, with meal and corn ; 



and two Sieux Indian women which the Mandanes had taken 
prisoners, and sold to the men, who, when arrived at the 
Trading House would sell them to some other Canadians. 
My Horse I left with my Host, and bought two stout Dogs 
to haul our luggage and provisions. Our march, as usual, 
commenced with flogging the Dogs, and swearing at them 
in the intervals ; my old soldier, who on going out, had only 
Horses to take [care] of, and used to reprove them, now he 
had Dogs could swear and flog as well as any of them. A 
council had been held ; as the Articles brought to them was 
by no means sufficient to supply their wants, to send a small 
party to the Trading House, get a knowledge of the Road, 
make sure friends of the Stone Indians and see the stock of 
Goods in the Trading Houses ; Accordingly a Chief in the 
prime of life, called the White Man, with four young men 
were selected, and came with us, and also an old man and his 
old wife, each of the latter carrying a bag of meal for their 
provisions. They said they were anxious to see the Houses of 
the White Men before they died ; and when told they were 
both too weak to perform the journey, they said their hearts 
were strong, but by the time they had ascended the heights 
of the river they were convinced they were too weak and 
returned. Mons" Jussomme and myself spoke to the Chief 
of the extreme hazard of such a small party escaping their 
enemies ; and that if they wished to have a direct trade 
with us, they must form a party of at least forty men with 
.Horses, and come when the Snow was not on the ground ; 
that even among the Stone Indians, who are friendly, there 
were bad men enough, on seeing such a small party, that 
would plunder them ; and they had all better return. He 
said, we do not know the country ; we are too few, and I 
will return, the young men belong to another Village, and 
they will do as they please. After fourteen days on our 
return and suffering excessive bad weather, two of the 
Mandane young men returned ; the other two continued 


with us. On the first day of February we came to eight 
Tents of Stone Indians, in the same place as [when] we went ; 
they treated the two Mandanes with great kindness. We 
told them we had returned by the usual route, as the Man- 
danes assured us there was no danger ; they said we had not 
acted wisely, for the good weather will bring the Sieux to 
the Dog Tent Hills, you have narrowly escaped, for we are 
sure they are now there. We killed very few Bisons and 
lived as much on Corn as on Meat. 

We continued our Journey and on the third day of 
February (1798) we arrived at the Trading House of the 
North West Company from whence we set out, thankfull to 
the Almighty for our merciful preservation. We have been 
absent sixty eight days. The next day M^ Hugh M^Crachan 
and four men with an assortment of goods for trade set off 
for the Mandane Villages, and the two Mandane young men, 
to whom M*" M^Donell made several presents, which highly 
pleased them. 

I strongly advised them all not to follow the usual route, 
carefully to avoid the Dog Tent Hill, and follow the route 
by which we went to the Missisourie, and which the Stone 
Indians also strongly advised ; This they all promised to do, 
and set off. The weather being fine, Canadian like, who 
believe there is no danger until they are involved in it ; they 
took the usual route, and at the campment of the Dog Tent 
Hills found the Sieux lying in wait for them ; they fell on 
them and killed two of the Canadians and one of the Man- 
danes, and the others would have shared the same fate, had 
they not begun quarrelling about the plunder of the goods. 
The Mandane got safe to his Village, and Hugh M'^Crachan 
and the two men returned to the House, in a sad worn out 
condition, the humanity of some Stone Indians saved their 
lives, or they must have perished with hunger. In the 
following summer as M"" Hugh M'^Crachan was on his usual 
trading journeys to the Mandanes, he was killed by the 


Sieux Indians.^ Our road from the Village of the Mandanes 
to the Stone Indian River House, following from Woods to 
Woods for fuel and shelter are to the Dog Tent Hill [which] 
is N 28 E 50 miles ; thence to the Elbow of the Mouse River 
N 49 E 20 miles ; thence to Turtle Hill south end N 28 E 56 
miles, thence along the Hill N 9 W 14 miles ; thence to the 
Ash House on the Mouse River N 3 W 24 miles ; thence to 
the House of M' M'=Donell N 69 E 45 miles. But a straight 
line between the two extreme points is N 26 E 188 miles. 

The whole of this country may be pastoral, but except in 
a few places, cannot become agricultural. Even the fine 
Turtle Hill, gently rising, for several miles, with it's Springs 
and Brooks of fine Water has very little wood fit for the 
Farmer. The principal is Aspin which soon decays : with 
small Oaks and Ash. The grass of these plains is so often on 
fire, by accident or design, and the bark of the Trees so often 
scorched, that their growth is contracted, or they become 
dry : and the whole of the great Plains are subject to these 
fires during the Summer and Autumn before the Snow lies 
on the ground. These great Plains appear to be given by 
Providence to the Red Men for ever, as the wilds and sands 
of Africa are given to the Arabians. 

It may be enquired what can be the cause of the violent 
Storms, like Hurricanes which, in a manner desolate this 
country, when such Storms are not known to the westward. 
No assignable cause is known ; there are no Hills to impede 
it's course, or confine it's action. What are called Hills, are 
gentle rising grounds, over which the Winds sweep in full 
freedom. And the same question may be asked of certain 
parts of the Ocean. 

My time for full three weeks was employed in calculating 

^ Thompson was probably mistaken in making this statement, for 
Hugh McCraken appears to have been alive when Lewis and Clark and 
Alexander Henry visited the Mandan villages in 1804 and 1806 re- 



the astronomical observations made to, and from, the Missi- 
sourie River ; and making a Map of my survey, which, with 
my journal was sealed up, and directed to the Agents of the 
North West Company, By a series of observations this Trading 
House is in Latitude 49 .40. 56 North, and Longitude 99. 27 . 15 
West. Variation 11 degrees E'. 



Leave M^DoneWs House — Melting snow — Arrive at Red River 
— Chippezuay Customs — Ascend the Red River — Prairie 
Fires — Salt Brooks — Trading Post Settlements — Cadotte^s 
House — Baptiste Cadotte — Chippeway Camp — Return to 
Cadotte^s House. 

ON the zG^ day of February (1798) I took leave of 
my hospitable friend M"" John M"^Donell, who 
furnished me with everything necessary for my 
Journey of survey. With me were three Canadians and an 
Indian to guide us, and six dogs hauling three Sleds loaded 
with Provisions and our baggage. Our Journey was down 
the Stone Indian River, sometimes on the Ice of the Stream, 
but on account of it's windings, mostly on the North Side ; 
cutting off the windings as much as possible ; In the afternoon 
we came to the Manito Hills, they are a low long ridge of sand 
knowls, steep on the west side, but less so on the east side ; 
they have a very little grass in a few places, no snow lies on 
them all winter, which is the reason the Natives call them 
Manito ; or preternatural. Except the Sand Ridge, the 
country we have come over is very fine, especially the junction 
Z_oi the Mouse River which is about i-J- mile below the House : 
the woods were of Oak, Ash, Elm, Bass Wood, Poplar, 
Aspin and a few Pines having small Plains and Meadows 
(short and long grass) .-^ In the evening we put up : and as 

^ Their camp this evening (February 26) was at Old Pine Fort, or 
Fort Epinette, which Thompson says in his notes had been forsaken 



usual had to melt snow to make water to drink and cook our 
supper. To melt Snow into well tasted water requires some 
tact. The Kettle is filled with Snow packed hard, it is then 
hung over the fire, and as it melts it is with a small stick 
bored full of holes to the bottom to lessen the smoky taste. 

several years. It was situated on the north side of the Assiniboine river, 
in the north-east quarter of Sect. 36, Tp. 8, R. 14, west of the Principal 
Meridian, about eight miles southward from Carberry Junction on the 
Canadian Northern Railway. Daniel Harmon in his Journal says that 
Pine Fort was built in 1785, and abandoned in 1794 ; and Alexander 
Henry the younger states that it was abandoned when the fort at the 
mouth of the Souris was built. It was an important post. John McDon- 
nell describes it as the lowest house of the North- West Company at that 
time, and says that the Mandans and Gros Ventres came there from the 
Missouri to trade. He also states that it was abandoned in 1794, because 
Donald McKay of the Hudson's Bay Company had built a post at the 
mouth of the Souris river the previous year, and it was necessary to move 
up beside him. On Peter Pond's map of 1790 there is the note: " Here 
upon the Branches of the Missury live the Maundiens, who bring to our 
Factory at Fort Epinitt [Pine Fort], on the Assinipoil River, Indian com 
for sale. Our people go to them with loaded horses in twelve days." 

When the site was visited by the editor in July, 1890, evidences of 
the existence of the fort could be distinctly traced, north of the river on 
a level grassy flat which breaks off towards the stream in a steep-cut bank 
twenty feet high. To the north the ground rises in several poplar- covered 
terraces to the main bank of the valley, which is a mile and a half distant, 
while to the south, across the shallow river, is a low bottom land a mile 
wide. The position of the old fort had been largely washed away by the 
river, but the back line, and part of the two end lines of the stockade, 
could be clearly followed as a trench in which were the butts of spruce 
posts about four inches in diameter which had been driven into the ground. 
The north side of the stockade was 56 paces long, while of the east and 
west ends respectively only lengths of 15 and 13 paces remained, the rest, 
with the whole of the front, having been washed away by the river. At 
the north-east corner there had been a bastion 8 feet square, beneath which 
was an entrance to the enclosure. Just within the eastern end of the 
enclosure was a pit 3 feet in diameter and 26 inches deep, filled with 
charred bones and wood. The main feature of the enclosure was a large 
mound 11 paces in diameter and 2 feet high, with a pit in the middle 
6 paces in diameter and 2 feet deep. This doubtless marked the position 
of a house, some of the timbers of which were still projecting from the 
bank. At two of the corners piles of stones showed where chimneys had 
stood. Eight paces west of the enclosure, and just on the edge of the bank, 
was a large shallow pit. 


When it becomes water the taste is disagreeable with smoke, 
but in this state it readily quenches thirst, and for such is 
often drank ; to clear it of smoke the water is made to boil 
for a few minutes which clears it of the smoke. Snow is 
then put in, until it is cold, and the water is well tasted and 
fit for use. We continued our journey day after day,^ the 
Snow increasing every day in depth ; and to beat the path 
for the Dogs and Sleds became very tiresome work ; the 
Snow Shoes sunk six inches every step of the foremost man, 
our Guide every day became so fatigued I had to relieve him 
for two or three hours. 

On the seventh of March we arrived at it's junction with 
the Red River in Latitude 49 . 53 . i N. Longitude 97 . o . o 
West Variation 9 degrees East.^ The straight course is 
N 82 E 112 statute miles ; to perform which we walked 
169 miles. But the windings of the River is treble the former 
distance, and more. An Indian compared the devious course 
of the River to a Spy, who went here and there, and every- 
where, to see what was going on in the country. The whole 

1 On March 2, Thompson passed Old Poplar Fort, which was one of 
the oldest trading posts established by the English traders from Canada 
on the Assiniboine river. Thompson's notes place it on the north bank 
of the river about the middle of a straight reach three miles long, and five 
miles above the Meadow Portage. It was probably in Sect. 6, Tp. 11, 
R. 7, west of the Principal Meridian. Alexander Henry the younger says 
that it was abandoned in the autumn of 1781, after it had been attacked 
by Indians, and three of its defenders had been killed. 

Five miles below the site of Poplar House was the south end of the 
Meadow Portage to Lake Manitoba, just below a willow-covered island 
in the river. This place, on which the city of Portage la Prairie is now 
built, is one of the famous places in the history of the western fur trade. 
It was here that La Verendrye, having ascended the river until the water 
became too shallow to allow him to go farther, built, in the autumn of 
1738, Fort La Reine, which continued to be one of the chief trading posts 
of the French in the west until the cession of Canada to Great Britain. 
After that the place was occupied from time to time by traders of the 
North-West and Hudson's Bay Companies, until it was finally abandoned 
by the latter company in 1870. 

"^ The correct latitude and longitude of the mouth of the Assiniboine 
river are 49° 53' N. and 93° 9' W. 


of this country appeared fit for cultivation, and for raising 
cattle. The climate is as mild as Montreal in Canada, which 
[is] 4-i- degrees south of this River : The Woods as we 
descended the River were less in size and height ; especially 
the Oak. We saw but a few animals, a few Red Deer, and a 
chance small herd of Bisons, for those animals avoid deep 

Hitherto we have been on the hunting grounds of the 
Nahathaway Indians ; who possess this River, and all to the 
eastward, and to the northward as far as the latitude of 
56 degrees north. The Red River, and all the country- 
southward and the upper Mississippe, and countries eastward 
to, and all, Canada, are the hunting grounds of the Chippa- 
ways (or Oojibaways). Part is aheady occupied by civiHzed 
men, and the greatest part of their territories will in time be 
in the hands of those that cultivate the soil. They are a 
large, scattered tribe of the primitive Nahathaways, and 
speak a close dialect of their language, which they have 
softened as they live, comparatively, in a mild climate ; their 
countr}'- is different in soil and it's productions which renders 
them less dependent on hunting : The dark extensive forests 
of the north, give food, shelter, and comparative security to 
the Moose, the Rein Deer, and other wild animals, and 
exercise the sagacity and industry of the Hunter. Of all 
the Natives, these people are the most superstitious, they may 
be accounted the religionists of the North. As they have no 
Horses, and only Dogs for winter use and not many of these 
to haul their things in winter, they have very few tents of 
leather. They are mostly of rush mats neatly made, some- 
times of Birch Rind, or Pine Branches, always low, and 
seldom comfortable. As soon as mild weather comes on, 
they live in Lodges, which are long, in proportion to the 
number of families. Strong poles are placed on triangles for 
the length required, about six or seven feet high, the front 
looks to the south, and is open, the back part is formed of 


poles about three feet apart, in a sloping position, resting on 
the ground, and on the ridge pole, covered with Birch Rind, 
sometimes rush mats, and pine branches. In summer they 
all use Canoes and in winter the flat Sled ; in this season the 
women haul, or carry heavy loads, and the men also take 
their Share. They are well made for hunting and fatigue, 
they are more fleshy than their neighbours, and their skin 
darker. These are the people of whom writers tell so many 
anecdotes, as they are better known to the Whites than any 
other tribe ; they are naturally brave, but too much given 
to revenge : and although they exact fideHty from their 
wives, rarely punish with death ; the woman is sometimes 
punished by the husband biting off the fleshy part of the 
nose ; the Women declare it to be worse than death, as it is 
the loss of their beauty, and for the rest of life a visible mark 
of crime and punishment. But this barbarous act, is very 
rarely inflicted but when the man is drunk. 

On the f^ day of March we began the survey of the Red 
River, and continued to the 14''' of March, when we arrived 
at the Trading House of the North West Company, under 
the charge of Mons"" Charles Chaboiller,^ who gave us a kind 
reception. Our journey for the last eight days, has been 
most wretched traveling : the Snow was full three feet deep ; 
the ice of the River had much water on it, from the mild 
weather with small showers of rain, or wet snow. 

On the River, the mixture of snow and water which 
stuck to the Sleds, made it impossible for the Dogs to haul 
them, and it often required two of us to extricate Sleds with 
the assistance of the Dogs, and every thing had to be dried 
in bad weather. To beat the Road was a most laborious 
work, the ankles and knees were sprained with the weight of 
wet snow on each Snow Shoe, for the Snow was not on firm 
ground, but supported by long grass. I had to take his 

1 For an account of Chaboillez, see Elliott Coues, New Light, 
p. 60. 


place, and tying a string to the fore bar of each snow shoe, 
and the other end in my hand, with my gun slung on my 
back, and thus lifting my snow shoes, marched on ; We 
journeyed on the west side of the River ; the whole distance 
was meadow land, and no other Woods than sapHngs of Oak, 
Ash and Alder. From the many charred stumps of Pines it 
was evident this side of the River was once a Pine Forest. In 
the more northern parts, where Pine Woods have been 
destroyed by fire, Aspins, Poplars and Alders have sprung up, 
and taken the place of the Pines ; but along this, the Red 
River, from the mildness of the climate, and goodness of the 
soil. Oak, Ash, Alder, and Nut Woods have succeeded the Pines. 

This change appears to depend on soil and climate ; for 
in the high northern latitudes, where in many places there is 
no soil, and the Pines spread their roots over the rocks, Pine 
grounds, when burned, are succeeded by Pines ; for Aspins 
Poplars and Alders require some soil. Along the Great 
Plains, there are very many places where large groves of 
Aspins have been burnt, the charred stumps remaining ; and 
no further production of Trees have taken place, the grass of 
the Plains covers them : and from this cause the Great 
Plains are constantly increasing in length and breadth, and 
the Deer give place to the Bison. But the mercy of Provi- 
dence has given a productive power to the roots of the grass 
of the Plains and of the Meadows, on which the fire has no 
eflFect. The fire passes in flame and smoke, what was a lovely 
green is now a deep black ; the Rains descend, and this odious 
colour disappears, and is replaced by a still brighter green ; 
if these grasses had not this wonderful productive power on 
which fire has no effects, these Great Plains would, many 
centuries ago, have been without Man, Bird, or Beast. 

We crossed several Brooks of salt water, which come from 
ponds of salt water on the west side of the River, one, or two 
of these are so strongly impregnated, that good salt is made 
of the water by boiling ; the meat salted with it, is well 


preserved, but somewhat corroded. On the 12'*" we came 
to four Lodges of Chippaways, they had killed two poor 
Bulls, of which we were glad to get a part, and the next day 
two of them came with us, which relieved us from the fatigue 
of beating the road. At this trading Post I stayed six days, 
making astronomical observations which determined this place 
to be in Latitude 48° 58' 24" north Longitude 97° iG 40" W 
of Greenwich Variation Si degrees East. This House is 
therefore one minute and thirty six seconds in the United 
States ; the boundary Line between the British Dominions 
and the Territories of the United States being the forty 
ninth parallel of north Latitude from the Lake of the Woods 
/^ to the east foot of the Rocky Mountains.^ I pointed out the 
Boundary Line to which they must remove ; and which 
Line, several years after was confirmed by Major Long of 
the corps of Engineers, on the part of the United States. 
From the junction of the Stone Indian with this, the Red 
River, the course is S iij W 65 J statute miles, but to the 
Boundary Line 64 miles. The number of Men that now 
trade at this house are 95, which at seven souls for each man, 
(rather a low average), gives 665 souls. And at the Rainy 
River House, which lies in Latitude 48 . 36 . 5 8 N Longitude 
93 . 19 . 30 W. in a course S 82 E 184 miles. The Chippaways 
who trade at this house are 60 men, giving an average of 
420 souls : By the extent of their hunting grounds each 
' family of seven souls, has 150 to 180 square miles of hunting 
ground, and yet [they] have very little provisions to spare ; 
this alone is sufficient to show the ground does not abound in 
wild animals. The Beaver has become a very scarce animal ; 
the soil and climate not requiring the same materials for his 
House, become a more easy prey. During the Summer these 
Natives subsist on fish, and in Autumn, part of them on wild 

^ The boundary extended to the watershed range of the Rocky Moun- 
tains, and not to the east foot, as is here stated. 


The Woods about this House are Oak, Ash, Ehn and 
Nut Woods, the Oaks of fine growth, tall and straight. The 
largest of these measured ten feet girth at six feet above the 
ground. In the hollows of the decayed Trees, the Racoons ^ 
take shelter, they are not found to the northward : they are 
a fat animal, and like all other animals that feed on Nuts, 
their fat is oily ; without the skin and bowels, the weight of 
one is about fifteen pounds. They lay up nothing for the 
winter, and are dormant during the cold weather. The Red 
River is here 120 yards in width. Eleven miles below this 
the Reed River from the eastward falls in, it's width is about 
the same, but not so deep. This part of the River is called 
Pembina, from a small Stream that comes in. As this River 
has a rich deep soil and [is] everywhere fit for cultivation, it 
must become a pastoral and agricultural country, but for 
want of woods, for buildings and other purposes, must be 
limited to near the River. The open Plains have no Woods 
and afford no shelter. Note. Twenty years after this (1798) 
Several Canadians who had married native women with their 
families first settled, and they were soon joined by the 
Servants of the Hudson's Bay Company, who had done the 
same, with their families. This settlement rapidly increased 
it's population, and now (1848)^ numbers about 5000 souls. 
The great draw back on this fine Settlement is the want of 
a Market ; York Factory in Hudson's Bay, is apparently their 
Market, but the distance is too great, being N 24 E 606 miles 
on a straight line, and the devious route they would have to 
follow cannot be less than 900 miles. In this distance there 
are many Carrying Places, over which every thing must be 
carried ; such a journey with their products would require 
the greater part of the short summer of these countries ; and 
leave the Farmer no time for the cultivation of his ground. 

1 Procyon lotor (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 

* The date here inserted is interesting, as it determines the year in 
which Thompson wrote this portion of his memoirs. 


It would be a journey of toil, hard labor and suffering, and 
night and day devoured by Musketoes and other flies. Hence 
York Factory cannot be a market for the Red River. The 
extra produce of this river cannot find a Market at Montreal, 
the distance is too great, and the obstacles too many, and too 
laborious to be overcome. Nor can a market be found on 
the Mississippe, to get to the head of this River is a tedious 
route with many Carrying Places. In time civilisation will 
advance to them by this River, but until then the Red River 
must remain an isolated Settlement. 

Here in the Latitude of 49 degrees, the Snow, clear of 
drift, is three to three and a half feet in depth ; and in the 
Latitude of 58 degrees north the Snow has the same depth ; 
but falls dry as dust, it adheres to nothing, and a cubic foot 
of well packed snow, when melted, yields only two inches of 
water. But in the former latitude, a cubic foot of well packed 
snow when melted, yields from four to five inches of water. 
Hence the northern Rivers, on the melting of the Snow, are 
not much affected, the Snow yields but little water, and the~ 
frosts of every night check its quantity. But to the south- 
ward, the Rivers overflow from the quantity of water con- 
tained in the Snow, and the thaw being more steady with 
greater warmth. 

On the 21'' March we proceeded on our journey^ and on 
the 25'^ arrived at the trading House of the North West 
Company under the charge of Mons"" Baptiste Cadotte. 
The Weather was fine, and at night the frost made the Snow 
firm for several hours of the day. Our journey was along 

^ After travelling S. io° E, ten and a half miles up the west side of 
Red river, Thompson passed an old house which had formerly been occu- 
pied by a trader named Grant. After travelling S. lo" E. thirty-five miles, 
he reached the trading-post of a trader named Roy or Le Roy, which he 
places in latitude 48* 23' 34" N., five and a half miles south of Salt river. 
On the morning of March 23, he crossed to the east side of Red river, and 
went overland to the house of Baptiste Cadotte on the bank of Red Lake 
river, where the Clearwater river joins it, in latitude 47" 54' 21", on the 
site now occupied by the town of Red Lake Falls. 


the Red River ; in some places there were fine Ledges of 
Woods along the River, of moderate width, from thirty to 
three hundred yards ; they were of Oak, Ash, Elm, Bass and 
other woods. As we ascended, the Aspin became more 
frequent. The whole a fine rich deep soil. About fifteen to 
twenty miles westward are the Hair Hills ; of gentle rising 
grounds, with groves of Wood in places. At the east foot of 
these Hills are the low grounds with Ponds of salt water, 
and from which several Brooks come into the Red River. 
The Deer and Bisons are very fond of the grass of these 
places, which appears to keep them in all seasons in good 

Mr Baptiste Cadotte^ was about thirty five years of age. 
He was the son of a french gentleman by a native woman, and 
married to a very handsome native woman, also the daughter 
of a Frenchman : He had been well educated in Lower 
Canada, and spoke fluently his native Language, with Latin, 
French and English. I had long wished to meet a well 
educated native, from whom I could derive sound informa- 
tion for I was well aware that neither myself, nor any other 
Person I had met with, who was not a Native, were sufficiently 
masters of the Indian Languages. As the season was ad- 
vancing to break up the Rivers, and thaw the Snow from oif 
the ground, I enquired if he would advise me to proceed any 
farther with Dogs and Sleds : he said the season was too far 
advanced, and my further advance must be in Canoes ; my 
last wintering ground was the Rein Deers Lake ^ in Latitude 
57 . 23 North which Lake was frozen over to the 5'** day of 
July, when it broke up by a gale of wind, and hitherto having 
been confined to northern chmes, I was anxious to see the 
workings of the climate of 48 degrees north, aided by the 

* For brief notes on Baptiste Cadotte and his father, see Coues, New 
Light, pp. 929-30. 

^ The previous winter had been spent at Bedford House, on the west 
side of Reindeer lake, and the weather had been very severe, even for 
that northern locaHty. 


influence of the great, and warm Valley of the Mississippe, 
which was near to us. I shall therefore give a few days in 
the form of a journal. 

March 27'^. A fine morning. At 6i- am we set off and 
went up along the River thirteen Miles, through Willows, 
small Birch and Aspins : with a few Oak and Ash in places ; 
to 2 PM when we came to seven Tents of Chippeways and to 
Sheshepaskut (Sugar) the principal Chief of the Chippeway 
Tribe ; he appeared to be about sixty years of age, and yet 
had the activity and animated countenance of forty. His 
height was five feet, ten inches. His features round and 
regular, and his kind behaviour to all around him, and to 
strangers, concealed the stern, persevering Warrior, under 
whose conduct the incursions of the Sieux Indians were re- 
pressed, and the Village Indians driven to the Missisourie : 
We stopped at his Tent, as usual we were well received ; he 
thought the season too much advanced but would send a 
Guide with us the morrow. 

The Snow was thawing and wet, very bad walking. On 
my Journey to the Missisourie I had two Thermometers ; 
On my return, on a stormy night, one got broke, and the one 
remaining I had carefuUy to keep for my astronomical observa- 
tions, so that I can only give the weather in general terms. 

March 28'^. The night was mild, and the Snow still 
wet. At 5^ AM the Guide came, and we advanced about 
four miles, when our Guide took care to break his Snow Shoes, 
and went back to the Tents, and in the evening the Chief 
sent me another Guide ; but we had to put up and wait all 
day. The Chippeways had killed a black Bear,^ but on coming 
to our campment, they were so tired with heavy walking, 
they left the meat with us, until they returned. Three 
Geese ^ were seen and at 8 pm Lightning, Thunder and Rain 
came on, the latter during the whole night. 

^ Ursus americanus Pallas. [E. A. P.] 
2 Branta canadensis (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 


March 29'''. Rain continued until noon ; The Snow was 
now so mixed with water, that we could not proceed. In 
the evening Rain came on and continued. Every thing was 
wet, without a chance of drying our clothes and baggage. 

March 30"". Showers of Hail and Sleet. With the Guide 
went to examine the country before us : which appeared like 
a Lake, with water. I had therefore to return to M' 
Cadotte and wait [for] the Rivers to become clear of ice, 
which was now too weak to venture upon^ Our order of 
march was each of us carrying upon his back pvhat] the water 
could injure, every step, from ancle to the knee in snow 
water ; the Dogs dragging the Sleds floating in the water. 
Swans, Geese and Ducks were about ; but [of] the Eagles 
and large Hawks which to the northward are the first to 
arrive, none were seen : 

On the 31". After three hours march, at the rate of one 
mile an hour ; we became too fatigued, laid down our loads, 
and with one man light we went to the house to get help, 
bad as the River was, we ventured on it ; like desperate men ; 
my companion fell through three times, and I escaped with 
only once ; the water was only three feet deep, and we carried 
a long light pole in each hand. At 2 pm thank good Provi- 
dence, we arrived at the house of Mr Cadotte who directly 
sent off five men to bring every thing to this place. Here a 
few days has thawed three and a half feet to three feet of 
heavy snow, which in the Latitide of 57 or 58 degrees north, 
require five, or six weeks of Hngering weather. 



Wahhino Dance — Home oj Wahhino Singers — End of Wahbino 
Craze — Man Eater — Weetogo — Sheshepaskufs story of the 
war with the Chyennes — Suicide of a Sieux woman prisoner — 
Massacre of Chippeways. 

WE had now to wait the River becoming clear of ice, 
and get a Canoe in order for our voyage. In the 
mean time I collected some information on the 
Religion and Ceremonies of these people. I learned that of 
late a superstition had sprung up, and was now the attention 
of all the Natives. It appeared the old Songs, Dances, and 
Ceremonies by frequent repetition had lost all their charms, 
and reHgious attention ; and were heard and seen with 
indifference : some novelty was required and called for ; and 
these people are the leaders of the Tribe in superstition and 
ceremonies. Accordingly two, or three crafty chiefs, con- 
trived to dream (for all comes by Dreams) after having passed 
some time in a sweating cabin, and singing to the music of 
the Rattle. They dreamed they saw a powerful Medicine, 
to which a Manito voice told them to pay great attention 
and respect, and saw the tambour with the figures on it, and 
also the Rattle to be used for music in dancing : They also 
heard the Songs that were to be sung : They were to call it 
the Wahbino : It was to have two orders ; the first only 
Wahbino the second Keeche Wahbino ; and those initiated 
to bear the name of their order, (fool, or knave) Every 
thing belonging to the Wahbino was sacred, nothing of it to 
touch the ground, nor to be touched by a Woman. 


Under the guidance of the Wahbino sages, Tambours 
were made, the frame circular of eight inches in depth and 
eighteen inches diameter, covered with fine parchment ; the 
frame covered with strange figures in red and black, and to 
it were suspended many bits of tin and brass to make a gingling 
noise ; the Rattle had an ornamented handle ; and several 
had Wahbino Sticks, flat, about three feet or more in length, 
with rude figures carved and painted : The Mania became 
so authoritative that every young man had to purchase a 
Wahbino Tambour ; the price was what they could get 
from him : and figured dances were also sold ; the Knaves 
were in their glory, admired and getting rich on the credulity 
of others, but there were several sensible Men among them, 
who looked with contempt on the whole of this mumery : it 
was harmless, and since there must be some foolery, this was 
as harmless as any other, I asked the old Chief, what he 
thought of it ; he gave me no answer, but looked me full in 
the face, as much as to say, how can you ask me such a 
question. I was present at the exhibition of a Wahbino 
dance : A Keechee Wahbino Man arrived, he soon began to 
make a speech to the great power of the Wahbino, and to 
dance to his Song. He seated himself on the ground, on 
each hand, a few feet from him, sat two men, somewhat in 
advance ; the Dancers were five young men naked, and 
painted, above the waist : I sat down by one of the two 
Men ; the Wahbino Man began the Song in a bold strong 
tone of voice, the Song was pleasing to the ear ; the young 
Men danced, sometimes slowly, then changed to a quick step 
with many wild gestures, sometimes erect, and then, to their 
bodies being horizontal : shaking their Tambours, and at 
times singing a short chorus. They assumed many attitudes 
with ease, and showed a perfect command of their limbs. 
With short intervals, this lasted for about an hour. I watched 
the countenance of the Indian next to me, he seemed to 
regard the whole with sullen indifference ; I enquired of him, 


" what was the intent and meaning of what I had seen and 
heard " ; With a smile of contempt By what you have seen, 
and heard ; they have made themselves masters of the 
Squirrels Musk Rats and Racoons, also of the Swans, Geese, 
Cranes and Ducks : their Manito is weak. " Then all these 
are to be in abundance." " So they say, but we shall see." 
" What becomes of the Bison, the Moose and Red Deer. 
With a look of contempt ; Their Manito's are too powerful 
for the Wahbino. I found that several of the Indians looked 
on the Wahbino as a jugglery between knaves and fools : yet 
for full two years it had a surprising influence over the Indians, 
and too frequently [they] neglected hunting for singing and 
dancing. About two hours after the exhibition, an Indian 
arrived with twenty two Beaver Skins to trade necessaries for 
himself and family, he was a Man in the prime of Hfe. The 
Knave of a Keeche Wahbino made a speech to him on the 
powerful effects of the Great Wahbino Song, and which he 
directly sang to him. 

The Song being ended ; the Indian presented him 
eighteen Beaver Skins, reserving only four for himself, for 
these he traded ammunition and tobacco, and [kept] nothing 
for his wife and family ; and the Knave seemed to think he 
was but barely paid for his song and ought to have been paid 
the twenty two Beaver Skins. I enquired of M"" Cadotte, if 
he could interpret to me the Song we had just heard : he 
repHed, that although they spoke in the language of his 
native tongue, he did not understand a single sentence of 
the Song, only a chance word, which was of no use. 

We both had the same opinion, that they have a kind of 
a mystical language among themselves, understood only by 
the initiated, and that the Wahbino Songs, were in this 
mystical language : that novelty had given it a power, which 
it would soon lose ; he remarked that almost all the Wahbino 
singers, were idle Men and poor hunters. This foUy spread 
to a considerable distance, and the Lake of the Woods became 


it's central place. Several lodges, containing forty or fifty 
families, living more by fishing than hunting, became 
enamoured of the Wahbino Song and Dance, and so many 
dancing together they too often became highly excited and 
danced too long. One of them made a neat drum for him- 
self ; on which he placed strings of particular bones of small 
animals, as mice, squirrels and frogs, with strings of the bones 
and claws of small birds : and on beating the drum as the 
strings of bones changed positions, pretended to tell what 
was to happen. These Lodges were now encamped at the 
sortie of the Rainy River into the Lake of the Woods, on a 
fine, long, sandy Point on the left side of the River : long 
poles were tied from tree to tree, on which were carefully 
hung the Wahbino Medicine Bag and Tambour of each Man. 

On this Point the North West Canoes camped, when a 
gale of wind was on the Lake. The Lake was in this state in 
1799, when we arrived, and we put up : aboat 10 am. At 
noon by double Altitude I observed for Latitude, 

While doing so, an Indian of my acquaintance, came and 
sat dov/n. When I was done, looking at the parallel glasses 
and quicksilver, he said. My Wahbino is strong. I knew that 
his meaning was to say, By what you are doing, you give to 
yourself great power, my Wahbino can do the same for me. 
I told him the Great Spirit alone was strong, your Wahbino 
is Hke this, taking up a pinch of sand and letting it fall. He 
then said the Sun is strong ; My answer was, the Great Spirit 
made the Sun, at this he appeared surprised and went away. 

The next morning the Gale of Wind continued ; the 
Indian came to me, and said, yesterday you despised my 
Wahbino, and I have thrown it away. 

In the night the Gale had thrown down the Pole to which 
the Tambour and Medicine Bag was tied ; and the Dogs 
had wetted them ; he was indignant, and took the gun to 
shoot the Dogs, but his good sense prevented him ; and 
looking at his Tambour and Medicine Bag with contempt. 


exclaimed " If you, the Wahbino had any power, the Dogs 
would not have treated you as they have done." Other 
Tambours were in the same condition, the news of this 
accident spread, the sensible men took advantage of it, and 
by the following summer nothing more was heard of the 
Wahbino Medicine. 

I called to M' Cadotte's attention a sad affair that had 
taken place a few months past on the shores of the Lake of 
the Woods. About twenty families were together for hunting 
and fishing. One morning a young man of about twenty 
two years of age on getting up, said he felt a strong inclination 
to eat his Sister ; as he was a steady young man, and a pro- 
mising hunter, no notice was taken of this expression ; the 
next morning he said the same and repeated the same several 
times in the day for a few days. His Parents attempted to 
reason him out of this horrid inclination ; he was silent and 
gave them no answer ; his Sister and her Husband became 
alarmed, left the place, and went to another Camp. He 
became aware of it ; and then said he must have human 
flesh to eat, and would have it ; in other respects, his behaviour 
was cool, calm and quiet. His father and relations were 
much grieved ; argument had no effect on him, and he 
made them no answer to their questions. The Camp became 
alarmed, for it was doubtful who would be his victim. His 
Father called the Men to a Council, where the state of the 
young man was discussed, and their decision was, that an evil 
Spirit had entered into him, and was in full possession of him 
to make him become a Man Eater (a Weetego). The father 
was found fault with for not having called to his assistance a 
Medicine Man, who by sweating and his Songs to the tambour 
and rattle might have driven away the evil spirit, before it 
was too late. Sentence of death was passed on him, which 
was to be done by his Father. The young man was called, 
and told to sit down in the middle, there was no fire, which 
he did, he was then informed of the resolution taken, to which 


he said " I am willing to die " ; The unhappy Father arose, 
and placing a cord about his neck strangled him, to which 
he was quite passive ; after about two hours, the body was 
carried to a large fire, and burned to Ashes, not the least bit 
of bone remaining. This was carefully done to prevent his 
soul and the evil spirit which possessed him from returning 
to this world ; and appearing at his grave ; which they 
beHeve the souls of those who are buried can, and may do, 
as having a claim to the bones of their bodies. It may be 
thought the Council acted a cruel part in ordering the father 
to put his Son to death, when they could have ordered it 
by the hands of another person. This was done, to prevent 
the law of retaliation ; which had it been done by the hands 
of any other person, might have been made a pretext of 
revenge by those who were not the friends of the person 
who put him to death. Such is the state of Society where 
there are no positive laws to direct mankind. 

From our exploring notes ; it appeared to us that this 
sad evil disposition to become Weetego ; or Man Eaters, 
was wholly confined to the inhabitants of the Forests ; no 
such disposition being known among the Indians of the Plains ; 
and this limited to the Nahathaway and Chippeway Indians, 
for the numerous Natives under the name of Dinnae 
(Chepawyans) whose hunting grounds are all the Forests 
north of the latitude of 56 degrees, have no such horrid dis- 
position among them. 

The word Weetego is one of the names of the Evil Spirit 
and when he gets possession of any Man, (Women are wholly 
exempt from it) he becomes a Man Eater, and if he succeeds ; 
he no longer keeps company with his relations and friends, 
but roams all alone through the Forests, a powerful wicked 
Man, preying upon whom he can, and as such is dreaded by 
the Natives. Tradition says, such evil Men were more 
frequent than at present, probably from famine. I have 
known a few instances of this deplorable turn of mind, and 


not one instance could plead hunger, much less famine as 
an excuse, or cause of it. There is yet a dark chapter to be 
written on this aberration of the human mind on this head. 

The Chief, Sheshepaskut, with a few men arrived, with a 
few Beaver Skins and Provisions ; I enquired of him, the 
cause of his making war on the Chyenne Indians and destroy- 
ing their Village, and the following is the substance of our 
conversation. Our people and the Chyenne's for several 
years had been doubtful friends ; but as they had Corn and 
other Vegetables, which we had not and of which we were 
fond, and traded with them, we passed over and forgot, many 
things we did not like ; until lately ; when we missed our 
Men who went a hunting, we always said, they have fallen by 
the hands of our enemies the Sieux Indians. But of late 
years we became persuaded the Chyennes were the people, 
as some missing went to hunt where the Sieux never came ; 
We were at a loss what to do ; when some of our people 
went to trade Corn, and while there, saw a Chyenne Hunter 
bring in a fresh Scalp, which they knew, they said nothing, 
but came directly to me. A Council was called, at which 
all the Men who had never returned from hunting were 
spoken of by their relations ; and it was determined the 
Chyenne Village must be destroyed : As the Geese were 
now leaving us, and Winter [was] at hand, we defered to 
make war on them until the next Summer ; and in the mean- 
time we sent word to all the men of our tribe to be ready and 
meet us here when the berries are in flower. Thus the 
winter passed ; and at the time appointed we counted about 
one hundred and fifty men. We required two hundred, but 
some of the best hunters could not come, they had to hunt 
and fish for the families of the warriors that came. We made 
our War Tent, and our Medicine Men slept in it ; their 
Dreams forbid us to attack them until the Bulls were fat ; 
the Chyenne's would then leave their Village weak to hunt 
and make provisions. To which we agreed. 


The time soon came, and we marched from one piece of 
Woods to another, mostly in the night until we came to the 
last great Grove that was near to the Village. Our Scouts 
were six young men. Two of them went to a small Grove 
near the Village, and climbing up the tallest Oaks, saw all 
that passed in the Village and were relieved every morning 
and evening by other two. 

We thus passed six days, our provisions were nearly done, 
and we did not dare to hunt. Some of our men dreamed we 
were discovered and left us. On the seventh morning, as we 
were in council, one of the young men who were on the watch 
came to us, and gave us notice that the Chyennes had col- 
lected their Horses and brought them to the Village. We 
immediately got ourselves ready and waited for the other 
young man who was on the Watch ; it was near mid day 
when he came and informed us that a great many men and 
women had gone off a hunting, and very few remained in 
the Village. We now marched leisurely to the small Grove 
of Oaks to give the hunting party time to proceed so far as 
to be beyond the sound of our Guns. At this Grove we 
ought to have remained all night and attack the next morning ; 
but our Provisions were done, and if they found the Bisons 
near ; part of them might return ; From the Grove to the 
Village was about a mile of open plain ; as we ran over, we 
were perceived, there were several Horses in the Village on 
which the young people got, and rode off. 

We entered the Village and put every one to death, except 
three Women ; after taking every thing we wanted, we 
quickly set fire to the Village and with all haste retreated for 
those that fled at our attack would soon bring back the whole 
party, and we did not wish to encounter Cavalry in the 

Here the old Chief lighted his pipe, and smoked in a 
thoughtful manner. M"" Cadotte then took up the narrative. 
Those left in charge of the village were twelve Men of a 


certain age, and as there was no time to scalp them in the 
manner they wished, their heads were cut off, put into bags ; 
with which, and the prisoners, they marched through the 
Woods to the camp near the Rainy River. Here they re- 
counted their exploits, and prepared for a grand war dance 
the next day : which accordingly took place. One of the 
three Women prisoners was a fine steady looking woman with 
an infant in her arms of eight months, which they in vain 
tried to take from her. Each time she folded it in her arms 
with desperate energy, and they allowed her to keep it. 

The war circle being made by the Men, their Wives and 
Children standing behind them, the three prisoners were 
placed within the war circle ; the heads taken were rolled 
out of the bags on the ground : and preparatory to their 
being scalped, the whole circle of Men, Women, and Children 
with tambours rattles and flutes, shouted the War whoop, 
and danced to the song of Victory. The prisoner Woman 
with her infant in her arms did not dance, but gently moved 
away to where the head of her husband was lying, and catch- 
ing it up, kissed it and placed it to the lips of her infant ; 
it was taken from her and thrown on the ground ; a second 
time she seized it, and did the same ; it was again taken from 
her, and thrown on the ground ; a third time she pressed the 
head of her husband to her heart, to the lips of herself and 
child ; it was taken from her with menace of death : holding 
up her infant to heaven, she drew a sharp pointed Knife 
from her bosom, plunged it into her heart ; and fell dead on 
the head of her husband. They buried her, and her infant 
was taken to, and brought uji at, the Rainy River House. 

The old Chief still smoking his pipe, said the Great 
Spirit had made her a Woman, but had given her the heart 
of a Man. 

Our discourse then turned on the Sixty Seven souls. Men 
Women and Children that two springs ago were destroyed by 
the Sieux Indians at the Sand Lake of the Mississippe where 


they were making Sugar ; The Chief repHed that he did not 
know what to say to it ; it was a bad affair and they longed 
to revenge it : but they in a manner brought it on them- 
selves. For several years there had been no regular war 
between us, they had left the Woods, made very little use of 
Canoes, and having many Horses were living in the Plains 
and had we waited, would have left the whole of the Woods 
to us. The Sand Lake was finely wooded with large Maples, 
which had never been tapped ; this tempted our people, 
they went and made a great deal of Sugar ; this did for once, 
and the Sieux took no notice of it ; but when they returned 
the next spring, this was making that Lake their own, the 
Sieux did not care for it, but would not allow it to be taken 
from them. They formed a war party and so completely sur- 
prised our people, that not one escaped, and the enmity 
that was dying away between us is now as bad as ever. While 
they keep the Plains with their Horses we are not a match 
for them ; for we being foot men, they could get to windward 
of us, and set fire to the grass ; When we marched for the 
Woods, they would be there before us, dismount, and under 
cover fire on us. Until we have Horses like them, we must 
keep to the Woods, and leave the plains to them. 

On conversing with these Chippaways they all readily 
understood me, though frequently I did not understand them, 
and M" Cadotte had to interpret between us. He also ex- 
pressed his surprise that they should understand me, which 
he did not ; they replied, we understand him because he 
speaks the language of our Fathers, which we have much 
changed and made better. On comparing the Nouns and 
Verbs of the primitive language of the Nahathaways with the 
Chippaway dialect, the greatest change appeared in con- 
stantly rejecting the " th " of the former for the " y " of the 
latter, as for Kether (you) Keyer — for Neether (me) Neeyer — 
for Weether (thou) Weeyer ; and softening a great number 
of others, rejecting some and substituting others, and giving 


to the whole a more sonorous sound as best adapted to their 
oratory. The dialects of the primitive language extend to the 
Delaware River ; and the Delaware Indians speak a dialect of 
the primitive language. 

By astronomical observations this House is in Latitude 
47 . 54 . 21 N. Longitude 96 . 19 W Variation 10 degrees East. 
The course of this River is from the south westward until it 
is lost in the Plains, the groves are at a considerable distance 
from each other, by no means sufficient for the regular 
Farmer, but may become a fine pastoral country, but without 
a Market, other than the inhabitants of the Red River. 



Another start — Clear Water River — Carrying Place oj Red 
Lake River — Spearing Fish — Arrive at Turtle Lake — 
Birds — Wild Rice — Otter — Turtle Lake. 

THE Rivers becoming clear of ice, a Birch Rind Canoe 
of eighteen feet in length, by three feet in breadth 
was made ready ; and on the ninth day of April 
with three Canadians, and a native Woman, the Wife of one 
of the Men, and twelve days provisions in dried meat. We 
set out to survey the country to the source of the Mississippe 
River : We had the choice of two Rivers, that direct from 
the Red Lake ; the current moderate, but liable to be en- 
cumbered with ice from the Lake, or the Clear Water River 
of swift current : without any ice ; we preferred the latter, 
and proceeded slowly up it. This River was fifty five yards 
in width by about eight feet in depth, from the melting of 
the Snow. But as all these Rivers are fed by Snow and 
Rains, in the months of August and September this River's 
depth will not exceed one or two feet. Although the 
country appears a perfect level the current ran at the rate of 
full four miles an hour. The River was too deep, to anchor 
our ticklish Canoe, but seeing a piece of Wood on the middle 
of the River I left the Canoe and walked as fast as I could, 
yet the current carried the wood faster than I walked. 

On the eleventh we passed the junction of the Wild Rice 

River from the westward, with a body of water equal to half 



this River, and we have now less water with more moderate 
current. On the twelfth we arrived at the Carrying Place 
which leads to the Red Lake River, having come sixty four 
miles up this sinuous River. The east side, or right bank 
had fine Forests, but as we advanced, the Aspin became the 
principal growth of the Woods. The West Bank had patches 
of hard wood trees, with much fine meadow which led to 
the Plains, the whole a rich deep soil. 

The Carrying Place is four miles in length of part marsh 
and part good ground to the Bank of the Red Lake River, 
in Latitude 48 . o . 55 N Longitude 95 . 54 . 28 W.^ Variation 
10° East. 

Our course was now up this River to the Red Lake, a 
distance of thirty two miles. Both banks of this River well 
timbered with Oak, Ash and other hard Woods, intermixed 
with much Aspin and Poplar. A rich deep soil, but now from 
the melting of the Snow every where covered with water, the 
country so level, that only a chance bit of dry bank was to 
be seen ; At night we cut down Trees and slept upon them. 
As our provisions were dried meat we did not require fire to 
cook our supper, and a Canadian never neglects to have 
touchwood for his pipe. By Observations the head of the 
River on the banks of the Lake, is in Latitude 47 . 58 . 15 N. 
Longitude 95 . 35 • 37 W The straight course and distance 
from M" Cadotte's House is, N 82 E 35 miles, to perform 
which we have gone over 117 Statute miles and employed 
seven long days, setting off at 5 am and putting up at 7 pm. 

At the Lake the kind old Chief, Sheshepaskut with six 
Lodges of Chippeways were camped. He gave us three pickerel 
and two large pike, a welcome change from dried meat. As 
they had no Canoe, and therefore could not spear fish in the 
night, they requested the loan of mine, which was lent to 
them. The spearing of fish in the night, is a favorite mode 

^ This is the position given in Thompson's notes for the north end of 
the portage. 


with them, and gives to them a considerable part of their 
Hvelihood. The spear handle is a straight pole of ten to 
twelve feet in length, headed with a barbed iron ; A rude 
narrow basket of iron hoops is fixed to a pole of about six 
feet in length. A quantity of birch rind is collected and 
loosely tied in small parcels. When the night comes, the 
darker the better, two Men and a Boy embark in a Canoe, 
the one gently and quietly to give motion to the Canoe. 
The pole and basket is fixed in the Bow under which the 
Spearman stands, the Birch Rind is set on fire, and burns 
with a bright light ; but only for a short time, the Boy from 
behind feeds the Hght, so as to keep a constant blaze. The 
approach of the flaming Hght seems to stupify the fish, as they 
are all speared in a quiesent state. The Lake or River is 
thus explored for several hours until the Birch Rind is 
exhausted, and on a calm night a considerable number is 
thus cai:^ht. Those in my canoe, speared three Sturgeon, 
each weighing about sixty pounds. For a clear water Lake 
they were very good ; for the Sturgeon may be called the 
Water Hog, and is no where so good and fat as among the 
alluvials of Rivers. This, the Red Lake is a fine sheet of 
Water of about thirty miles in length by eight to lo miles 
in breadth ; the banks rise about twenty to thirty feet, the 
soil is somewhat sandy and produces Firs of a fine growth, 
with the other usual woods, and in places, the white Cedar 
but of short growth. This Lake like several other places, 
has occasionally a trading House for one Winter only, the 
country all around, being too poor in furrs to be hunted on 
a second winter. The Lake being covered with ice, and 
patches of water, at places we paddled the Canoe, and where 
the ice was firm, made a rude Sledge on which we placed the 
Canoe and Baggage, and hauled it over the ice to a patch of 
water and thus continued for seventeen miles ; a laborious 
work and always wet, the weather frequent showers of Rain 
and Sleet, and then clear weather. We now came to a 


Carrying Place of six miles in length, in a south direction, 
over which we carried our Canoe and things. 

The Road was through Firs and Aspins, with a few Oaks 
and Ash. Near the middle of the Carrying Place the Ground 
had many ascents and descents of twenty to forty feet, the 
first we have seen since we left the Red River. By 9 pm on 
the 23'''* of April we had carried all over, and now had to 
cross the country to the Turtle Lake,^ the head of the Missis- 
sippe River at which we arrived on the 27'^. Our Journey 
has been very harassing and fatigueing ; from Pond to Pond 
and Brook to Brook with many carrying places, the Ponds, 
or small Lakes were some open, others wholly or partly 
covered with ice ; the Brooks so winding, that after paddHng 
an hour we appeared to have made very little, or no advance. 

The country everywhere appeared low and level, some- 
thing Hke an immense swamp. Everywhere there was much 
wild rice,'^ upon which the wild fowl fed, and became very fat 
and well tasted ; The Swan was a very rare bird ; and of the 
different species of Geese, [there were] only two species of 
the Grey Goose ; ^ but the Ducks [were found] in all their 
varieties : the Cranes * and Bitterns ^ upon their usual food 
were equally good ; of the Plover species there were but few, 
the Ponds having their low banks covered with long grass. 
In some Ponds there were Pelicans ^ and Cormorants,' the 
former as disgusting as usual. The large spotted Loons ^ were 

^ In Thompson's notes there is this reference to Turtle brook : " This 
is the source of the famous Mississippi river in the most direct Hne. All 
the other little sources are reckoned to be subordinate to this, as they are 
longer in forming so considerable a stream. The brook that furnishes 
water to this lake comes in on the right hand, from the south bay of the 
Turtle Lake." The latitude of Turtle lake is given as 47° 38' 21" N. 

2 Zizania aquatica (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 

^ Branta canadensis (Linn.) and B. c. hutchinsi (Rich.). [E. A. P.] 

*■ Grus (perhaps more than one species). [E. A. P.] 

5 Boiaurus lentiginosus (Montagu). [E. A. P.] 

* Pelecanus erythrorhynchos Gmel. [E. A. P.] 
' Phalacrocorax auritus (Lesson). [E. A. P.] 

* Gavia immer (Brunn.). [E. A. P.] 


in every Pond that was open ; this wily Bird, as soon as he 
saw us set up his cry, and was at a loss whether to fly or 
dive. For the latter the ponds were too shoal and full of 
rice stalks ; and before he could raise his flight he had to 
beat the water with Wings and Feet before he could raise 
himself. This exposed them to our shots, and we killed 
several of them. Their beautiful spotted skins make favorite 
Caps for the Natives, and two Canoes of Chippaways being 
in company were thankful to get them. It is very well known 
that at Churchill Factory in Hudson's Bay in Latitude 
58 . 47 . 32 N Longitude 94 . 13 . 48 West, in the spring wild 
grey geese are killed with wild Rice in their stomachs ; on 
which they must have fed near the Turtle Lake in Latitude 
47-39-^5 ■'^ Longitude 95 . 12 . 45 W, the direct distance be- 
tween the two places is N 3 E 780 statute miles. Wild Rice, 
but not in any quantity, so as to feed numerous flocks of 
Geese, grow in places near the Latitude of 50 degrees north, 
but even from these few places the distance to Churchill 
Fort will be about 660 miles. The wild rice grows in great 
plenty all round the Turtle Lake, allowing this Lake to be 
their centre. The Ponds, Brooks, Rivulets and small Lakes in 
which the wild Rice grows in abundance occupies an extent 
of area of at least six thousand square miles. It is a weak 
food, those who live for months on it enjoy good health, are 
moderately active, but very poor in flesh : The Wild Geese, 
before a Gale of Wind fly at the rate of sixty miles an hour, 
which at this rate requires thirteen hours from their rice 
ground to take them to Churchill Fort. (Note. Conversing 
with Surgeon Howard of Montreal on the great distance the 
Wild Geese fly without digesting the rice in their stomachs, 
he related to me an experiment of the late D"" John Hunter on 
digestion. He had two grey hounds. One morning he fed 
them both with the same quantity and quality of Meat ; the 
one he tied up, and [it] remained quiet aU day ; and with 
the other he hunted all day : about sunset they were both 


killed. On examining the hound that was tied up, the Meat 
was wholly digested ; but in the stomach of the hound that 
had hunted all day the meat was but little changed. Thus it 
appears that animals on a rapid march do not digest their 
food, or very slowly). These extensive rice grounds are pro- 
bably the last place where the Wild Fowl that proceed far 
to the northward (about 1400 miles) to make their nests, 
and bring up their young, feed for a few days to give them 
strength for their journey, for the late springs of the northern 
climes they pass over cannot give them much. In the Brooks 
and small Lakes were several Otters,^ of which we killed one ; 
to make the flesh of this animal more palatable, the Natives 
hang it in the smoke for a couple of days. 

For the first time we saw the small brown Eagle, some 
days we saw at least a dozen of them, but always beyond the 
reach of our Guns. From M"" Cadotte's House on the Red 
River to this place, the Turtle Lake we have been nineteen 
days, rising early and putting up late, and yet by my astro- 
nomical observations, the course and distance is S 71 E 56 
statute miles, in a direct line not quite three miles a day. 
These circuituous routes deceive the traveller, and induce him 
to think he is at a much greater distance from a given place 
than what he actually is. The Turtle Lake, which is the 
head of the Mississippe River, is four miles in length, by as 
many in breadth and it's small bays give it the rude form 
a Turtle. 

(Note. By the treaty of 1^83 between Great Britain and 
the United States, the northern boundary of the latter was 
designated to be a Line due west from the north [west] corner 
of the Lake of the Woods (in latitude 49 . 46I N) to the head 
of the Mississippe which was supposed to be still more to the 
north : This supposition arose from the Fur Traders on 
ascending the Mississippe which is very sinuous, counting 
every pipe a League of three miles at the end of which they 

^ Lutra canadensis (Schreber). [E. A. P.] 


claimed a right to rest and smoke a pipe. By my survey I 
found these pipes to be the average length of only two miles, 
and they also threw out of account the windings of the River, 
and thus placing the Turtle Lake 128 geo. miles too far to 
the north). ^ 

^ This statement by Thompson has been widely quoted, but is 
erroneous. The negotiators of the prehminary treaty of peace, November, 
1782, had before them a copy of the Mitchell map of North America, 
published in 1755. The north-west corner of this map contained an 
" inset " map of the Labrador peninsula and Hudson Bay, doubtless in- 
serted there because, at the date of publication, the geographical infor- 
mation respecting the Red river region was so meagre. The Mississippi 
river is shown as a large stream where cut off by the inset map, and, to 
anyone relying solely upon the Mitchell map, it would seem evident that 
it would extend northward at least as far as the latitude of the north-west 
angle of the Lake of the Woods. But for this inset map, and errors in 
the body of the map, our boundary would, almost certainly, have followed 
the St. Louis river from the present city of Duluth, thence to the head- 
waters of the Mississippi. Much geographical confusion has been caused 
by over-estimation of distances, but, as stated above, our territorial losses 
in this area are not due to this cause. [James White.] 



Turtle Brook — Red Cedar Lake — Trading Post — Collecting Wild 
Rice — Maple Sugar — Rights in Maple Groves — Mississippe 
— Lake Winepegoos — Sand Lake River — Ascend Sand Lake 
River — Sand Lake Trading Post — Great Swamps — S' 
Louis River — Rapids iff Falls — Trading Post — Elevations 
— Lake Superior — Copper on Lake Superior — Large Lakes 
of North America — Survey of south shore of Lake Superior — 
Echo at Ontonoggan River — Arrive at Falls of S' Maries — 
Meet Sir Alexander M'Kenzie — Instructions from the North 
West Company — Survey of the east and part of the north 
shore of Lake Superior. 

TWO canoes of Chippaway Indians came to us on their 
way to the Red Cedar Lake ; As my Canoe from 
coming too often in contact with the ice was Leaky 
I embarked with them to the Red Cedar Lake. From the 
SW corner of the Turtle Lake a Brook goes out, by the name 
of the Turtle Brook of three yards in width by two feet in 
depth at 2i miles p*" hour, but so very winding, that rather 
than follow it we made a Carrying Place of i8o yards, to a 
small Lake which sends a Brook into it, and which we followed, 
and then continued the main stream following its incredible 
windings and turnings through apparently an extensive very 
low country of grass and marsh. 

There were three Falls, along which we made as many 
carrying places, and several rapids over a gravel bottom ; As 

=73 S 


we proceeded several Brooks came in from each hand, and we 
entered the Red Cedar Lake ^ in a fine Stream of fifteen yards 
in width by two feet in depth, and three miles an hour. Pro- 
ceeding five miles over the Lake we came to the trading house 
of M' John Sayer,^ a Partner of the North West Company, 
and in charge of this Department. By my Observations this 
House is in Latitude 47 . 27 . 56 N Longitude 94. . 47 . 52 West 
Variation 6 degrees East. From the north bank of Turtle 
Lake to this trading house the course and distance S 58 E 25 
Miles, but the windings of the River will more than treble 
this distance. The Stream has a grassy valley in which it 
holds it's zigzag course ; this land is very low. The Woods on 
each side of the Valley are of Oak, Ash, Elm, Larch, Birch,^ 
Pines, Aspins and where a little elevated fine Maple.* The 
soil every where deep and rich with abundance of long grass. 
The Brooks and Ponds and the Turtle Rivulet almost from 
side to side full of the Stalks of the Wild Rice, which makes 
it very laborious to come against the current, as the canoe 
must keep the middle of the stream against the full force of 
the current. M' Sayer and his Men had passed the whole 
winter on wild rice and maple sugar, which keeps them aHve, 
but poor in flesh : Being a good shot on the wing I had killed 
twenty large Ducks more than we wanted, which I gave to 
him a most welcome present, as they had not tasted meat for 
a long time. A mess of rice and sugar was equally acceptable 
to me who had lived wholly on meat ; and I tried to hve 
upon it, but the third day was attacked with heart burn and 
weakness of the stomach, which two meals of meat cured ; 
but the rice makes good soup. From the remarks I have 
made in the vicissitudes of my Hfe, I have always found that 

^ Now known as Cass lake. 

* John Sayer was one of the wintering partners who signed the agree- 
ment of 1804 consolidating the North-West and X Y Companies. His 
house at this time was on the north-east side of Cass lake. 

^ Betula papyrifera Marsh. [E. A. P.] 

* Acer saccharum Marsh. [E. A. P.] 


men leading an active life readily change their food from 
vegetable to animal without inconvenience, but not from 
animal to vegetable, the latter often attended with weakness 
of the bowels. 

The wild Rice is fully ripe in the early part of September. 
The natives lay thin birch rind all over the bottom of the 
Canoe, a man lightly clothed, or naked places himself in the 
middle of the Canoe, and with a hand on each side, seizes 
the stalks and knocks the ears of rice against the inside of the 
Canoe, into which the rice falls, and thus he continues until 
the Canoe is full of rice ; on coming ashore the Women assist 
in unloading. A canoe may hold from ten to twelve bushels. 
He smokes his pipe, sings a Song ; and returns to collect 
another canoe load. 

And so plentifuU is the rice, an industrious Man may fill 
his canoe three times in a day. Scaffolds are prepared about 
six feet from the ground made of small sticks covered with 
long grass ; on this the rice is laid, and gentle clear fires kept 
underneath by the women, and turned until the rice is fully 
dried. The quantity collected is no more than the scaffolds 
can dry, as the rice is better on the stalk than on the ground. 
The rice when dried is pounded in a mortar made of a piece 
of hollow oak with a pestle of the same until the husk comes 
off. It is then put up in bags made of rushes and secured 
against animals. The Natives collect not only enough for 
themselves, but also as much as the furr traders will buy 
from them ; Two or three Ponds of water can furnish enough 
for all that is collected. 

In the Spring the Natives employ themselves in making 
Sugar from the Maple Trees, the process of doing which is 
well known. The old trees give a stronger sap than the young 
trees ; The Canadians also make a great quantity, which, 
when the sap is boiled to a proper consistence, they run into 
moulds where it hardens. But the Indians prefer making it 
like Muscovado sugar, this is done simply by stirring it quickly 


about with a small paddle. The Plane Tree ^ also makes a 
good sugar, the sap is abundant, and the sugar whiter, but 
not so strong. Both sugars have a taste, which soon becomes 
agreeable, and as fine white loaf sugar can be made from it 
as from that of the West Indies. The natives would make 
far more than they do, if they could find a Market. 

The men of family that trade at this House are about 
Sixty, and M' Sayer, who has been in the Furr Trade many 
years, is of opinion that seven persons to a family is about a 
fair average. This will give 420 souls. The Natives here call 
themselves " Oochepoys " ^ and for some few years have begun 
to give something like a right of property to each family on 
the sugar maple groves, and which right continues in the 
family to the exclusion of others. But as this appropriated 
space is small in comparison of the whole extent ; any, and 
every person is free to make sugar on the vacant grounds. 
The appropriation was made by them in a council, in order 
to give to each family a full extent of ground for making 
sugar, and to prevent the disputes that would arise where all 
claim an equal right to the soil and it's productions. And as 
in the making of sugar, several kettles and many small vessels 
of wood and birch rind for collecting and boiling the sap are 
required, which are not wanted for any other purpose, [they] 
are thus left in safety on their own grounds for future use. 

Our Canoe being in very bad order from rough usage 
among the ice M"" Sayer purchased a good canoe for us for 
the value of twenty beaver skins in goods and our Canoe. It 
was my intention to have gone a considerable distance down 
the River, but M" Sayer strongly advised [me] to go no 
further than to Sand Lake River, as beyond we should be in 
the power of the Sieux Indians. On the third day of May 

^ Thompson evidently refers to the Ash-leaved Maple, Acer negundo 
Linn. This tree bears considerable resemblance to the False Plane, 
Acer pseudo-platanus Linn., the " Plane Tree " of Scotland. [E. A. P.] 

* Another form of the name Ojibway. 


we took leave of our kind host ; our provisions were wild 
rice and maple sugar, with powder and shot for ducks. One 
mile beyond the house we entered the River, now augmented 
to twenty six yards in width by three feet in depth, at two 
miles an hour. The valley of the Mississippe lay now clear 
before me, it's direction South East ; it's appearance was that 
of a meadow of long half dried grass without water of about 
half a mile in width, or less. On the left side points of wood 
came to the edge of this valley, but not into it, at a mile, 
or a mile and a half from each other, the intervals were bays 
of hay marsh. On the right hand the Hne of Woods was 
more regular ; Being well experienced in taking levels, the 
Valley of the River before us showed a declining plane of full 
twenty p"^ mile for the first three miles ; this would give a 
current which no boat could ascend ; but this was com- 
pletely broken down by the innumerable turnings of the 
River to every point of the compass. Seeing a Pole before 
us at less than five hundred yards the four hands in the canoe 
paddled smartly for thirty five minutes before a current of 
2i miles an hour to arrive at it, in which time we estimated 
we had passed over about three miles of the windings of the 
River. Meeting an Indian in his canoe ascending the River, 
he smoked with us, and on my remarking to him the crooked- 
ness of the River, he shook his head, and said Snake make this 
River. I thought otherwise, for these windings break the 
current and make it navigable. I have always admired the 
formations of the Rivers, as directed by the finger of God 
for the most benevolent purposes. 

At 7 PM we put up in Lake Winepegoos ^ formed by the 
waters of this River. It's length is seventeen miles, by about 
six miles in width, the principal fish is Sturgeon.^ The woods 
have all day had much Fir, both red and black, the latter very 
resinous and much used for torches for night fishing. The 

^ At present known as Lake Winnibigoshish. 
* Acipenser rubicundus Le Sueur. [E. A. P.] 


soil of the Woods is now sandy ; with Points of alluvial, on 
which are Oaks and other hard woods, and the bays have 
White Cedar,^ Birch and Larch.^ On leaving the Lake the 
valley of the River appeared more level. 

On the 4*'' at noon put ashore to observe for latitude and 
shortly after the River passing over a fine bottom of gravel, 
I found the River to be 26 yards wide 2-i- feet deep by 
2f miles an hour. Nine miles below the Leach River from 
Leach Lake, southwestward of us comes in, its size appears 
equal to this River, which it deepens, but does not add to 
it's breadth. For this day the valley of the River is from 
half to one mile in width, on each side well wooded with fine 

May 5'**. After proceeding two miles saw the first leaves 
on the Willows ; the Maple and other Trees are in full bud, 
but have no leaves. We came to a Rapid, and a Fall over a 
smooth Rock of eight feet descent : the whole is thirteen feet 
perpendicular, with a Carrying Place of 263 yards. Six miles 
further the Meadow River from the north eastward joins, 
it's size and water equal to this, the Mississippe, which is 
now fifty to sixty yards in breadth. We met a Man wounded 
in the shoulder, in a quarrel with an other Man, his Wife was 
paddling the Canoe ; it appeared jealousy was the cause. 

On the 6^^ May we continued our route : in the course of 
the day we met an Indian and his Wife. The man had a large 
fresh scar across his nose, and when smoking with us, asked if 
he was not still handsome ; on arriving at Sand Lake we 
learned that the evening before, while drinking, another 
Indian had quarrelled with him, and in a fit of jealousy had 
bit off his nose and thrown it away, but in the morning finding 
his nose was missing, he searched for, and found it, the part 
that remained was still bleeding, on which he stuck the part 
bitten off, without any thing to keep it ; it adhered, and 

1 Thuja occidentalis Linn. [E. A. P.] 
* Larix laricina (Du Roi). [E. A. P.] 


taking a looking glass, [he] exclaimed, " as yet I am not ugly." 
I was afterwards informed, the cure became complete, and 
only the scar remained. The Swan River from the north 
eastward fell in with a bold stream of water. In the after- 
noon at 5 PM we arrived at the mouth of the Sand Lake 
River, a short distance above which I measured the Mississippe 
River ; 62 yards in width ; 1 2 feet in depth ; at 4 yards from 
the shore 10 feet, at two yards 8 feet in depth, by full two 
miles an hour. The mouth of the Sand Lake River is in 
Latitude 46 . 49 . 1 1 N Longitude 93 . 45 . 7 W and from the 
Red Cedar Lake S 48 E 68 miles. 

As the Mississippe is the most magnificent River, and 
flows through the finest countries of North America, I shall 
endeavour to explain the peculiar formation of its head 
waters. From the Turtle to the Red Cedar Lake, the passage 
was too much obstructed by ice to allow me to form a correct 
idea of it's windings ; but from the latter Lake to the mouth 
of the Sand Lake River there was no ice ; From the Red 
Cedar Lake to the latter river is 68 miles direct distance ; to 
perform which, four hands in a light Canoe paddled forty 
three hours and thirteen minutes. Of this direct distance 
ten miles were Lake, leaving fifty eight miles of River ; and 
allowing three hours and thirteen minutes for passing the 
Lake ; forty hours remain. Four hands in a light Canoe 
before a current of two, and at times two and a half miles 
an hour, will proceed, at least five miles an hour ; and this 
rate for forty hours will give a distance of two hundred miles 
of the windings of the river for fifty eight miles in a direct 
line, being nearly three and a half miles to one mile. Every 
mile of these sinuosities of the River, the current turned to 
every point of the compass, and it's direct velocity was 
diminished, yet continuing to have a steady current measured 
at two full miles an hour, must have a descent of full twenty 
inches p" mile to maintain this current ; which in two hundred 
miles gives a descent or change of level in this distance of 


333 feet 4 inches, equal to a change of level of 3f feet for each 
mile in a direct line. 

Thus the descent from the Turtle to the Red Cedar Lake 
is 97!^ feet, and from this Lake to the Sand Lake River 
3333 f^^^ giving a change of level of 431 feet, apparently- 
through a low country. (Note. Lieutenant Lynch of the 
US Navy in his survey of the River Jordan from the Sea of 
Tiberias to the Dead Sea says the difference of level of the 
two seas is something more than one thousand feet. The 
distance between these seas in the direct line of the River 
is sixty miles, but the windings of the Jordan increased the 
distance to two hundred miles which gives a descent of five 
feet to a mile. They descended it in two boats in safety, 
passing over twenty seven strong rapids and many lesser to 
the Dead Sea). 

To the intelHgent part of mankind, the scources of all the 
great rivers have always been subjects of curiosity ; witness 
the expeditions undertaken ; the sums of money expended, 
and the sufferings endured to discover the sources of the Nile, 
the research of ages. Whatever the Nile has been in ancient 
times in Arts and Arms, the noble valley of the Mississippe 
bids fair to be, and excluding its pompous, useless. Pyramids 
and other works ; it's anglo saxon population will far exceed 
the Egyptians in all the arts of civiHzed life, and in a pure 
religion. Although these are the predictions of a solitary 
traveller unknown to the world they will surely be verified 


The course and length of the River Mississippe from it's 
scource to it's discharge into the Gulf of Mexico in Latitude 
29° o' North Longitude 89 . 10 West is S 14 E 1344 Miles. 
This great River including the Missisourie, drains an extent 
of 981,034 square geographical miles. In common average of 
low water this River discharges 82,000 cubic feet of water in 
a second of time ; at this rate it anually places in the Gulf 
of Mexico ly^Q^ cubic miles of fresh water ; and including 


freshets and steady high water a volume equal to 19 J cubic 

On the 6'^ day of May we arrived at the Sand Lake 
River, up which we turn and bend our course for Lake 
Superior. Since we left the Red River on the 9*^ day of 
April we have not seen the track of a Deer, or the vestige of 
a Beaver, not a single Aspin marked with it's teeth. The 
Indians we met all appeared very poor from the animals 
being almost wholly destroyed in this section of the country ; 
their provisions were of wild rice and sugar ; we did not see 
a single duck in their canoes, ammunition being too scarce ; 
nor did we see a Bow and Arrows with them, weapons 
which are in constant use among the Nahathaways for 
killing all kinds of fowl ; they were bare footed and poorly 

The Sand Lake River is twenty yards wide, by five feet in 
depth, at one and a half miles an hour. It's length two 
miles to the Sand Lake, proceeding more than half a mile 
we came to a trading house of the North West Company 
under the charge of Mons"^ Boiske.^ Here were the Women 
and children of about twenty families, the Men were all 
hunting in the Plains on the west side of the Mississippe to 
make half dried meat, and procure skins for leather of the 
Bison but the meat thus split and dried is very coarsely 
done, and to make it something decent, it has to pass through 
the hands of the Women. These people can only dress the 
hide of the Bison into leather ; but have not the art of dressing 
it with the hair on, to make Robes of it, so usefull for cloath- 
ing and bedding. As the Men were hunting on what is 
called the War Grounds, that is, the debatable lands between 
them and the Sieux Indians, the Women were anxiously 
waiting their arrival. The night being fine, as usual I was 

1 Doubtless the same as Charles Bousquet or Bousquai, who is men- 
tioned by Coues as having been in the Fond du Lac department about this 
time. Elsewhere Thompson speaks of him as " Mons. Buskay." 


observing for the Latitude and Longitude of the place ; in 
the morning an aged Man, no longer able to hunt came to 
me, and said, I come on the part of the Women, for they 
want to know where the Men are, are they loaded with meat, 
and when will they arrive ; I requested Mons" Boiske to tell 
him, that I knew nothing of the matter, and saw only the 
Moon and Stars. But he took his own view of the question ; 
and told him to tell the Women ; the Men are safe, they 
will be here tomorrow, each has a load of Meat, but it is 
poor, there is no fat on it ; and they must not get drunk 
again until the Bisons are fat (August), and who ever bites 
off another man's nose, would be killed by the Sieux in the 
first battle. Umph, said the old man, while we can get fire 
water we will drink it. The Women were pleased, and said 
all the Men were fools that drank fire water. He informed 
me the Women in general kept themselves sober, and when 
the men were about to drink they hid all the Arms, and 
Knives and left them nothing but their teeth and fists to 
fight with. This gentleman, was of the same opinion with 
the other Traders, that ardent spirits was a curse to the 
Natives, it not only occasioned quarrels, but also revived old 
animosities, that had been forgotten. It kept the Indians 
poor and was of no use as an article of trade. 

He showed me his winter hunt, in value fifty beaver 
skins. The Minks ^ and Martens^ were inferior, the Lynxes* 
appeared good, but the furr [was] not so long as in the north. 
But the Fishers* were uncommonly large, the color a rich 
glossy black brown, and the furr fine : The Beaver's were 
mostly fall and spring skins, and as each were good in color 
and furr, but not a single Fox, or Wolf. These animals are 
almost unknown, there is nothing for them to live on. All 

* Lutreola v. letifera (HoUister). [E. A. P.] 

* Mattes americana (Turton). [E. A. P.] 
' Lynx canadensis Kerr. [E. A. P.] 

* Maries pennanti (Erxleben). [E. A. P.] 


his furrs came from the Forests between the Mississippe and 
Lake Superior. 

He had traded i6 Cwt of Maple Sugar from the Natives ; 
this was packed in baskets of birch rind of 28 to 68 lbs each. 
The Sugar appeared clean and well made ; that of the Plane 
Trees, looked like the East India Sugars, and [was] much the 
same in taste : In this article I have always noticed the supply- 
is greater than the demand. The Men of family that trade 
here are about forty two, which at seven souls to each man, 
is 294. 

We had now to cross the country to gain the River S' 
Louis, and by it descend to Lake Superior. Our Provisions 
were four pieces of dried bison meat ; four beaver tails and 
two quarts of swamp cranberries,^ they were the largest I had 
ever seen, being about the size of a small hazel nut. 

This trading house is in Latitude 46 . 46 . 30 N Longitude 
93 . 44 . 17 West Variation 6 degrees East. 

On the y'*" May went over the Sand Lake of four miles 
in length, by about one mile in width to Savannah Brook, 
up which we proceeded eight geo. miles of which i^ mile is 
a large Pond, but the windings lengthen the Brook to thirteen 
miles, to a great Swamp of 4-i- miles across it in a N 81 E 
direction, the latter part of what may be termed bog ; over 
which we passed by means of a few sticks laid lengthways, 
and when we shpped off we sunk to our waists, and with 
difficulty regained our footing on the sticks. No Woods grow 
on this great Swamp, except scattered pine shrubs of a few 
feet in height ; yet such as it was, we had to carry our Canoe 
and all our things. And all the furrs, provisions, baggage 
and Canoes of the Mississippe have to be carried on their 
way to the Depot on Lake Superior, and likewise all the 
goods for the winter trade. It is a sad piece of work. The 
Person in charge of the brigade ; crosses it as fast as he can, 
leaves the Men to take their own time, who flounce along 
^ Oxycoccus macrocarpus (Ait.). [E. A. P.] 


with the packs of furrs, or pieces of goods, and " sacre " as 
often as they please. Heavy Canoes cannot be carried over 
but at great risque both to the Men and Canoes, and the 
Company have Canoes at each end. This great Swamp, 
extended as far as we could see northward and southward, 
and I could not learn it's termination either way. It appears 
to be somewhat like a height of land between the Mississippe 
and the River S' Louis, as from it's west side it sends a brook 
into the former ; and from it's east side a brook into the 

With an extra Man to help us, it took us a long day to get all 
across it. At the east end I observed for Latitude and Longitude 
which gave [Latitude] 46 . 52 . 3 N Longitude 92 . 28 . 42 W 
Variation 6 degrees east. We now entered a Brook of seven 
feet wide, three feet deep, by two miles an hour, and descended 
it for twelve miles, but it's windings will extend it to twenty 
miles, in which distance it receives one brook from the south- 
ward, and two from the northward, which increased it to 
ten yards wide, seven feet deep by if miles an hour. We 
now entered the River S' Louis, a bold stream of about one 
hundred yards in width by eight feet in depth, the current 
three miles an hour. Having descended the River 4^ Miles 
we put up at 7f pm. We have been all day in the Forests 
that surrounded Lake Superior. The Brook of today has 
many wind fallen trees across it, which we had to cut away. 
In several places we saw the marks of beaver for the first 
time. On examining a Swan ^ we shot, it had thirteen eggs, 
from the size of a pea to that of a walnut, yet I do not 
remember ever seeing more than nine young ones with them. 
The Woods we have passed are a few Oaks of moderate size, 
some Ash, but the principal part Maple, Plane," White Birch, 
Poplar and Aspin ; on the low grounds. Pine and Larch. 
Hitherto the width, depth and rate of current of the Brooks 

' Olor buccinator (Richardson). [E. A. P.] 

^ Ash-leaved Maple, Acer negundo Linn. [E. A. P.] 


and Rivers are those of high water from the melting of the 
snow. But as all of them, even the Red River, depend on 
the Snow and Rains for their supply of water ; in the months 
of August, September and October they are all shoal. The 
Men who have navigated these streams for several years are 
now with me, and they assure me that this river (S' Louis) 
bold and deep as it now is, in the above months has only 
eighteen inches of depth, running among stones which they 
are often obliged to turn aside to make a passage for their 
canoes. In the night we heard a Beaver playing about us, 
flapping his broad tail on the water, with a noise as loud as 
the report of a small pistol, which was a novelty to us. 

Upon descending the first rapids, and proceeding down- 
wards, the Men were surprised to find the marks on the trees, 
to which they were accustomed to tie the Canoes at their 
meals, to be from six to eight feet above the present level of 
the River This may be accounted for, by our being on this 
river about a month more early than usual, and the sharp 
night frosts preventing the melting of the snow on the 
heights and interiour of Lake Superior. This River has many 
rapids, on one of which the waves filled the Canoe half full of 
water ; These were succeeded by a Cataract of small low 
steeps of a full mile in length round a point of rock, across 
which we made a carrying place of 1576 yards. Four miles 
further, of almost all rapids ; we came to the Long Carrying 
Place of seven miles in length. On our left the River descends 
the lower heights by a series of low falls, ending with a steep 
fall, estimated at 120 feet in height, below which the River 
flows with a moderate current into Lake Superior. 

The surface rock of the country is a slaty sand stone, very 
good for sharpening knives and axes. Near the mouth of the 
River is a Trading House of the North West Company under 
the charge of Mons"" Lemoine ; his returns were 600 lbs of 
Furrs with the expectation of trading 400 lbs more 9 kegs 
of gum from the Pine Trees for the Canoes and 12 Kegs, 


each of ten gallons, of Sugar. This House is in Latitude 
46 . 44 . 33 N Longitude 92 . 9 . 45 W Variation 4-i- degrees East. 
I have only set down my observations made at certain places, 
but they are numerous all over the survey, as every clear day 
and night, no opportunity was ommitted of taking observa- 
tions for Latitude, Longitude and Variation to correct the 
courses and distances of the survey. The Canoes that descend 
the River to the upper end of the Long Carrying Place, are 
carefully laid up, and there left, in like manner the Canoes 
that come from the Lake are left at the lower end. We 
found three large Canoes, and a north Canoe of 28 feet in 
length, much broken. This was too large for us, but we had 
no choice, we repaired it, and as we had only three men fitted 
it up with two oars, which have the force of four paddles, as 
we had now to encounter the Winds and waves of Lake 

The Natives that trade at this House are about thirty 
Men of family, and are about 210 souls. In Winter, from the 
poverty of the country they can barely live, and a small 
stock of sugar is part of their support. Deer^ are almost un- 
known, and they are suppHed with leather, as with other 
necessaries. In the open season their support is by fishing, 
for which the spear is much in use. Their canoes are about 
fifteen feet in length by three feet in breadth, and flat 
bottomed ; With a Woman or a Lad to paddle and steer the 
canoe, the Indian with his long spear, stands on the gunwales 
at the bar behind the bow, and ticklish as the canoe is, and 
the Lake almost always somewhat agitated, he preserves his 
upright posture, as [if] standing on a rock. On the Lake, 
especially in the fore part of the day, a low fog [rises] on the 
surface of the water, caused by the coldness of the water 
and the higher temperature of the air ; which hides the 
Canoe ; and only the Indian Man, with his poised spear 

^ Odocoileus v. borealis (Miller). [E, A, P.] 


ready to strike is seen, like a ghost gliding slowly over the 

I haye sometimes amused myself for twenty minutes with 
the various appearances this low fog gives to these fishermen. 
As the elevation of the Scource of the Mississippe is a subject 
of curiousity to all intelligent men, especially to those of the 
United States, to whom this noble River belongs, I shall 
continue my estimated calculations to determine its level 
above that of the Sea in the gulph of Mexico. 

From the Mississippe River to the mouth of the Sand 
Lake River ; by this River and the Savannah Brook there is 
an ascent of l6 ft 3 Inches to the great Morass, which may be 
taken as level. From the east side of this Morass a Brook 
descends to the River S' Louis, by it's windings of twenty 
miles, at 12 Inches p"^ mile is 20 feet, giving to the Mississippe 
an elevation of 3 feet 9 inches above this part of the River 
S* Louis. The descent of this River to Lake Superior is 
34 miles of strong current at 20 inches p"" mile, gives 56 feet 
8 inches. 11 miles of strong Rapids at 5 feet p"^ mile, equal 
to 55 feet of descent. One full mile of low Falls having a 
Carrying Place ; and a descent of twenty feet. One Carry- 
ing Place of 7 miles ; the Falls 20 feet p"" mile equal to 
140 feet to which add the last fall of 120 feet in height equal 
to 260 feet. 

Then 21 miles of current at 15 inches p"" mile equal to 
26 feet 3 inches, giving to the above part of the River S* 
Louis a descent of 417 feet 11 inches to Lake Superior. This 
Lake, by the levels taken to it's east end is 625 feet above the 
tide waters of the S' Lawrence River, Hence we have from 
the Sea to Lake Superior an ascent of levels of 625 feet ; 
The ascent to the Morass Brook, of the River S' Louis 418 
feet ; and difference of level of the Mississippe 3 feet 9 Inches, 
giving a total of 1046 feet 9 inches of this last River above 
the level of the Sea, at the Mouth of the Sand Lake River ; 
and from hence to the Turtle Lake, by the calculation already 


made 431 feet ; equal to 1478 feet ; ^ the elevation of the 
Turtle Lake, the scource of the Mississippe, above the Sea. 

It is tedious to the reader to attend to these calculations 
and yet to the enquiring mind they are necessary that he may 
know the ground on which they are based. For the age of 
guessing is passed away, and the traveller is expected to give 
his reasons for what he asserts. To take the levels of several 
hundred miles of Rivers is too expensive, unless there is some 
great object in view, and all that the pubHc can expect, or 
obtain, in these almost unknown countries, are the estimates 
of experienced men. 

On Lake Superior a Volume could be written ; I have 
been twice round it, and six times over a great part, each 
survey correcting the preceding. The last survey of this Lake 
was under the orders of the Foreign Office for to determine, 
and settle the Boundary Line, between the Dominions of 
Great Britain and the Territories of the United States. The 
Courses were taken by the Compass, and the Distances by 
Massey's Patent Log, the latter so exact, as to require very 
little correction. The many astronomical observations made 
have settled the exact place of the Shores of this great Lake : 
the Maps of which, with the Boundary Line are in the Foreign 
Office in London ; and also in the Office of the United States 
at Washington, and are not published.^ The River St Louis 
flows into it's west end ; and the discharge of the Lake is at 
it's south east corner, by the Falls of S* Maries, which are in 
Latitude 46 . 31 . 16 North Longitude 84 . 13 . 54 W. giving the 
straight course and distance, S 89 E 383 Miles, it's breadth 
increases from the west to the east end, to 176 miles. It 
has two great bays on it's east side, across which are many 
Islands. The shores of the south side are 671 miles, and 

1 The best information available indicates that Thompson was only 
56 feet in error. [James White.] 

^ These maps have since been published in J. B. Moore, History and 
Digest of International Arbitraiions, Washington, 1895. 


those of the north and east sides 946 miles, being a circuit 
of 161 7 miles It's area is about 28,090 square miles. It's 
level above the Sea is 625 feet.^ It's depth is as yet unknown, 
even near the shores of Pye Island and the head land Thunder 
Bay ; it has been sounded with 350 fathoms of Line, and no 
bottom [found] and this by men experienced in taking sound- 
ings. Supposing it's greatest depth to be only 400 fathoms 
equal to 2400 feet, it's bottom is 1775 feet below the surface 
of the Ocean." 

Taking it's area at 28,090 square miles and its average 
depth at 200 fathoms, this Lake contains 5930 cubic miles of 
fresh water. All summer the water tastes very cold, and in 
winter only the bays, and around the Islands are frozen, 
which the waves of the frequent gales of wind break up, 
and cause much floating ice. In easterly or westerly gales 
of wind the roll of it's waves are like those of the sea . When 
surveying this Lake in the year 1822 on the north side about 
fifty miles eastward of S' Louis River, about i pm we put 
ashore to dine, the day clear and fine and the Lake perfectly 
calm : as we were sitting on the Rocks, about a full mile 
from us direct out in the Lake suddenly there arose an 
ebullition of the water ; its appearance was that of a body 
of water thrown up from some depth. It was about thirty 
yards in length by four feet in height, it's breadth we could 
not see, from within this the water was thrown up about 
ten feet in very small columns as seen through our glasses. 
To the eye it appeared like heavy rain ; the Lake became 
agitated, the waves rolled on the shore ; and we had to secure 
the Canoes, this lasted for about half an hour. I took a 
sketch of it ; when it subsided, the waves still continued ; 
and we were for three hours unable to proceed. During this 
time and the whole day the wind was calm. On the western 
part of the south shore, the rock is mostly of Sandstone as 

1 Its elevation is 602 feet. 

^ Its maximum depth is 1,000 feet, nearly 400 feet below mean sea-level. 



are also the Islands ; some of the cliffs are much worn by the 
waves, and have heaps of debris : the Islands are in the 
same state. One of them is worn through, and in calm 
weather a canoe and men can pass with the arch three feet 
above their heads. 

Along the shore, proceeding eastward the limestone 
appears and continues and seems everywhere to underlay the 
sandstone. Everywhere the land rises boldly from the Lake 
shore, and at the distance of about fifteen miles are crowned 
by the Porcupine hills, lying parallel to the Lake and the 
elevation of the land appears to be full 2500 feet above the 
Lake ; the whole has the appearance of a continuous Forest, 
and so far as the eye can judge may be cultivated. The north 
and east sides of this Lake are very different from the south 
side ; they rise abruptly in rude rounded shaped rock rolhng 
back to the height of 850 to 2000 feet above the Lake ; at a 
distance they appear to be one Forest but a nearer approach 
shows many a place of bare rock. The whole extent of the 
946 miles of this coast is of the granitic order, in all the 
varieties that quartz, feltspar and mica can form with the 
materials and offers a fine field for the geologist and mineralo- 
gist ; but in all this distance were ten Farmers to search for 
a place where each could have a lot of 200 acres of good land 
along side of each other I do not think they would find it. 
In the north east corner of the Lake there is much Basalt, 
the only place in which I have seen this mineral on the east 
side of the Mountains. In this corner is Thunder Bay, so 
named by the Natives from it's frequent occurrence. Off the 
west point is Pye Island, so named from it's shape, it is of 
Basalt, part of this Island has perpendicular sides of at least 
100 feet in height ; close to which, the Lake has been sounded 
with 350 fathoms of lead line and no bottom [found] ; We 
may conclude the depth of the Lake to be here 400 fathoms, 
which will give the Basalt walls of the Island 2500 feet in 
height. The east end of the Bay is Thunder Point, rising 


1 1 20 feet above the surface of the water, which has been 
several times sounded without finding the bottom ; giving 
to the Lake the same depth as at Pye Island. This Basalt 
Point has a height of 3520 feet ; Great part of it is finely 
fluted, and the edges of their concaves fine and sharp ; and 
the waves of the Lake seem to have no effect on it, though 
exposed to all their force, indeed the Basalt walls of both 
places appear as fresh and firm as if Providence had placed 
them there only a few years ago. From the west end of the 
Lake by the north and east sides to the Falls of S* Maries are 
thirty one Rivers, of which the S' Louis the Mishipacoton and 
the Neepego, are about 1 50 yards in width ; the others from 
thirty to sixty yards wide, and twenty eight Brooks. On the 
south side there are forty Rivers two of these 150 yards in 
width the others from twenty to seventy yards, and forty 
one Brooks. All of these Rivers and Brooks are fed by the 
Rain and snow, and by the evaporation from this great Lake 
which rests upon the surrounding high Lands, and is not 
wafted beyond them. From the heights of these lands all 
the above Streams rush down in a series of Rapids and Falls, 
with some intervals of moderate current, as they pass over a 
table land. On the south side the River Ontonoggan (the 
native name) has from old times been noted for the pieces 
of pure copper found there, of which the Indians made their 
weapons before the arrival of the French ; and afterwards 
for the services of the Churches. 

Learning from my Men that a short distance up the River 
there was a large Mass of Copper, we left our canoe and pro- 
ceeded on foot to it ; we found it lying on a beach of lime- 
stone at the foot of a high craig of the same ; it's shape round, 
the upper part a low convex, all worn quite smooth by the 
attrition of water and ice, but now lying dry. We tried to 
cut a chip from it, but it was too tough for our small axe. 
(Note. This mass of pure copper has since been taken to 
Washington at the expense of 5000 dollars, and found to 


weigh 3000 lbs by information.) ^ At the extremity of the great 
Point called by the Natives Keewewoonanoo (We return) 
now shortened to Keewenow, in a small harbour we took 
pieces of copper ore. I named it Copperass harbour. Both 
at this place, at the above River and a few other places I 
learn the people of the United States for these three years 
(1848) have worked the Copper Mines with considerable 
profit ; and have also found much silver. 

It is not easy to conceive of the vast quantity of alluvial 
of all kinds brought down by seventy one Rivers and sixty 
nine Brooks rushing down these high lands, that surround 
the Lake, the accumulation of centuries must be very great 
yet such is the depth of the Lake, not a single River shows a 
point of alluvial worth notice. (Note. In the Province of 
Auvergne in France, there appears to have been a Lake of 
the size of Lake Superior, the barriers of which appear to have 
been broken down by an earthquake, and the Lake emptied. 
One aUuvial from a River destroyed at the same time, was 
computed to be nine hundred feet in height from the bottom 
of the Lake. This catastrophe must have happened previous 
to the time of Julius Caser, for had it happened in his time, 
or since, the Roman historians would have noticed such an 
event. Saussave.) 

The northern part of North America is noted for it's 
numerous and large Lakes far more than [any] other part of 
the world. The Great Architect said " Let them be, and 
they were " but he has given to his creature the power to 

1 This mass of copper, stated on the label to weigh about three tons, is 
still in the U.S. National Museum at Washington, D.C. It was observed 
by Alexander Henry the elder in 1 766, and had then long been known to 
the Indians. In 1841 Julius Eldred, having purchased it from the 
Chippewa, took it to Detroit, where it was exhibited. In 1843 it was 
claimed by the Gkjvemment and taken to Washington. It remained in 
charge of the War Department until i860, when it was transferred to 
the Smithsonian Institution. By an Act of Congress, Eldred was awarded 
the sum of $5,664.98 to reimburse him for his expenses in connection 
with it. [E. A. P.] 


examine his works on our globe ; and perhaps learn the order 
in which he has placed them. If we examine the positions 
of all these Lakes, their greatest lengths will be found to be 
about between North and thirty degrees west, and South 
and thirty degrees east, which are the Hnes of direction of 
the east side of the Great Plains, and of the Rocky Mountains : 
the anomaHes to this order are Lakes Michigan, Superior and 
Athabasca. The west sides of the Lakes are of Limestone 
and the east sides of Granite. Between these two forma- 
tions are the great wide chasms, or valleys filled with water, 
which are the Lakes. And the three above Lakes, although 
lying west and east, have their south sides of Limestone and 
their north sides of the granitic order, and their deep waters 
in their same kind of valley. The few Lakes that lie as it 
were within the east side of the Great Plains, as Cumberland 
and the Cedar Lakes are wholly within the Limestone forma- 
tion, and are comparatively shoal water Lakes. 

Having settled by observations the Latitude and Longi- 
tude of the trading house of S' Louis's River at the west end 
of Lake Superior ; on the 1 2^^ of May we proceeded to 
survey the south side of the Lake. In the afternoon we came 
to four Lodges of Chipaways. They had just arrived from the 
interior, having wintered at the west end of the Porcupine 
HiUs and now pass the summer on the borders of the Lake to 
maintain themselves by fishing. They are about 28 families, 
and by the usual rule of seven souls to a family their number 
is 196 persons. My Men thought, for the number of Men, 
there were more old Women than usual. Although the 
interior rises high, yet near the Lake the shores are low, 
with many fine sandy beaches, for setting of nets for fishing ; 
yet the Natives make no use of them, although they see the 
success of the white men : If a net is given to them, they are 
too indolent to take care of it, and it soon becomes useless. 
They prefer the precarious mode of spearing fish, which is 
practi[ca]ble only in calm, or very moderate weather. The 


woods seen from the Lake were of white and red Birch,^ 
Spruce Pines," Larch and Aspins, all of small growth. 

The next day we passed an Island of Sand Stone which 
the Waves had worn into rude arches, with many caves. The 
next day we came to three Lodges containing fifteen families, 
being 105 souls. An American of the States was living with 
them, and had adopted their way of life in preference to hard 
labor on a farm. In the afternoon we passed Mons'' Michel 
Cadotte ^ with five men and several Lodges of the natives from 
their winter quarters, now to live by fishing. 

The night and morning of the 15'*" May was a severe 
frost. The Land all day very high and bold shores. Having 
gone eleven miles we came to the Montreal River of 25 yards 
in width, between banks of rock ; near the Lake is a Fall of 
30 feet in height. The course of this River is through the 
Porcupine Hills the lower parts of which are now the coasts 
of the Lake ; Two of my Men had wintered near the head of 
this River. As the whole length of the River is a series of 
Falls between steep banks of rock the distance from the Lake 
to the House was one continued Carrying Place of 130 rests. 
(A Rest, or Pose, is the distance the cargo of the canoe is 
carried from place to place and then rest.) In this hilly country 
a Rest may be from five to six hundred yards, and the 
130 rests about forty miles. The men say the distance takes 
them thirty seven days of carrying to the House. All the 
trading Houses on the south side of the Lake require many 
miles of carrying, with some intervals of current to take the 
cargo of the canoe to the wintering ground. The Men who 
winter and have to traverse the country in every direction, 
say the Lakes are few and small, more like beaver ponds than 
Lakes ; and that in very many places sandstone for sharpening 

' Betula papyri/era Marsh, and probably the Yellow Birch, Betula 

lutea Michx. [E. A. P.] 

* Probably White Spruce, Picea canadensis (Mill.). [E. A. P.] 

' This was a brother of Baptiste Cadotte, who was in charge of the 

trading post on Red Lake river mentioned on p. 252. 


knives and axes are to be found. We came to a lodge of five 
families, they had seen no person for eight Moons, and had 
all their winters hunt with them, of about 360 pounds of 
furrs. Further on was a lodge of ten families. 

Early on the 17"* May we came to the Fair River at the 
east end of the Porcupine Hills. The interior country has 
now lower land. The Woods hitherto have much white 
Cedar,^ with Birch, Aspin and Pine, with a few Maple ^ and 
Plane Trees, ^ all of very common growth. An extensive body 
of ice lying before us, we had to put ashore and pass the 
day. We set a net but caught only six Carp.* The wind 
having drifted the ice from the shore, early on the 18''' we 
set oif and soon came to the Ontonoggan River, where lay 
the great mass of Copper I have already mentioned. Here 
was a M' Cadotte with four Lodges of Indians, he informed 
us that last summer (1797) a party of Americans had visited 
the River and proceeded twenty miles up it to the Forks of 
the River, they had promised the Indians to come this 
summer (1798) and build a Fort and work the mines, for which 
the Chippaways were waiting for them, but this promise 
they did not perform until the year 1845. M' Cadotte had 
a few goods remaining and requested a passage with us for 
himself and goods which we gave him and he embarked 
with us. 

Full twenty five miles North eastward of the Ontonoggan 
River are high steep rocks of a reddish color, which have the 
most distant Echo I have ever heard. We stopped a short 
time to amuse ourselves with it : The Rocks were about 
200 feet in height and the place of the Echo appeared about 
sixty feet above us ; The Echo of the words we spoke, seemed 
more sharp and clear than our voices and somewhat louder. 

1 Thuja occidentalis Linn. [E. A. P.] 

2 Acer saccharum Marsh. [E. A. P.] 
' Acer negundo Linn. [E. A. P.] 

* Catostomus commersonii (Lacepede). [E. A. P.] 


One of the Men, Francois Babue, who had been many years 
in the furr trade of the Lake used to abuse the Echo until 
he worked himself into a violent passion ; did the same this 
time until his expressions becoming too coarse, we moved off, 
he swearing, that he thought it very hard he never could 
have the last word. The greater part of this day we were in 
much danger from the Ice, which lay in the Lake a short 
distance from the shore ; had it come in we could not have 
saved ourselves as the rocks were high and steep. At ji pm 
we put up on Keewenaw Carrying Place ; This is a remark- 
able place, being an Isthmus of 2000 yards, in a south course 
and forms a body of Land in circuit 94 Miles into a Peninsula : 
known under the name of Point Keewenaw. The bank is 
about twenty feet in height; the first 11 00 yards is good 
ground ; the other 960 yards a perfect swamp. To avoid 
going round this Peninsula of high land the people of the 
States in time to come will cut a Canal through the Isthmus, 
at a small expence, as a Lock is not required. '^ The night 
being clear, as usual, I observed for Latitude and Longitude 
the former 47 . 14. 27 N. Longitude 88° 38' 36" West. 

From the Carrying Place is a Brook of 1-5 mile to a 
small Lake, and then a kind of Lagoon of 24 miles to Lake 
Superior. Part of the Lagoon, on one side the Woods 
were on fire, the heat and smoke made us lay by for a few 
hours. On the 22""^ and 24'^ of May we had heavy rain 
with vivid Lightning and loud Thunder. The provisions we 
had to live on were hulled Corn, part of a bag of wild rice, 
with a few pounds of grease to assist the boihng. It is 
customary after supper, to boil corn or rice for the meals of 
next day, and in good weather we set off by 4 am, the Kettles 
were taken off the fire in a boiling state and placed in the 
Canoe, and two hours afterwards we had a warm breakfast ; 
If Lightning and Thunder came in the day the Corn became 

1 This prediction has since been fulfilled by the construction of the 
Portage Lake canal. 


sour and had to be thrown away ; but the rice never soured : 
the same thing in the night, when the kettle had corn it was 
soured, but if of rice it kept good : the Men assured me that 
the Lightning and Thunder had no effect on the wild rice ; 
and that in the heats of Summer the Corn soured so fre- 
quently, they were half starved ; to boil a Kettle of corn 
requires three to four hours. The rice is cooked in half an 
hour, but it is very weak food. All the Corn for these voyages 
has to be steeped in hot lye of wood ashes to take off the rind 
of the grain. On the zS'*" May we arrived. Thank God at 
the Falls of S* Maries, the discharge of Lake Superior, and 
the head of the River S^ Lawrence, which flows into Lake 

Here I had the pleasure of meeting Sir Alexander 
M'^Kenzie the celebrated traveller who was the first to follow 
down the great stream of water flowing northward from the 
Slave Lake into the Arctic Sea, and which great River bears his 
name, and [was] made well known to the public by the journey 
of Sir John Franklin. Upon my report to him of the surveys 
I had made and the number of astronomical Observations foi 
Latitude, Longitude and Variation of the Compass, he was 
pleased to say I had performed more in ten months than he 
expected could be done in two years. The next day the 
Honorable William M'^GilHvray arrived. These gentlemen 
were the Agents, and principal Partners of the North West 
Company : they requested me to continue the survey of the 
Lake round the east and north sides to the Grand Portage, 
then the Depot of the company. The survey we had finished 
was of the south side, from the west, to the east end ; follow- 
ing the shores, the distance is 671 miles, but the direct line 
is only 383 miles. We had met with no families, and 
allowing twenty families not seen, will give 130 families. 
M" Cadotte, who has been for many years a Trader in these 
parts, thought 125 families to be nearer the number. Allow- 
ing these Natives to have possession of hunting ground only 


to the distance of 70 miles from the Lake, the extent will be 
26,810 square miles, and this divided by 130 will give to each 
family an extent of 206 square miles of hunting ground ; yet 
with this wide area ; the annual average hunt of each family 
of all kinds of furrs, from the Bear down to the Musk Rat,^ 
will not exceed sixty to seventy skins in trade ; allowing a 
Bear skin to be the value of two beavers ; and eight to ten 
musk Rats to be the value of one beaver. Deer are so scarce 
that all they kill does not furnish leather for their wants, and 
when the mild seasons come they all descend to Lake Superior 
to live by fishing. Calculation is tedious reading, yet without 
it, we cannot learn the real state of any country. (Note. 
M'^ Ballantyne of the Hudson's Bay Company has lately 
published a work, with the title of " Six years residence in 
Hudson's Bay," in which, speaking of the Bay, he says " the 
interior has Myriads of wild animals." The Natives will 
thank him to show them where they are. When he wrote 
those words he must have been thinking of Musketoes, and 
in this respect he was right.) 

The Forests of the Lake are such as has been already 
described ; I could not learn that any of the Forest Trees 
acquired a growth to merit particular notice, except the 
white Birch, the Rind of which is very good for canoes, and 
of a large size. 

On the first day of June we left the Falls of S' Maries and 
from thence surveyed the east and part of the north shores 
of Lake Superior to the y^^ day of this month, when late we 
arrived at the Grand Portage, then the Depot of the North 
West Company, to which the furrs of the interiour country 
came, and from whence the merchandise was taken for the 
furr trade to about the same time the following year, as 
already described. The Falls of St Maries is a rapid of about 
three fourths of a mile in length in which it descends eleven 

^ Fiber zibethicus (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 


feet/ and then by three channels of easy current descends to 
Lake Huron. The carrying place is about a mile in length 
of low wet ground, very easy for a canal and locks, and which 
at length is about to be completed in this year of i84[8] 
The opposite bank of these rapids belong to the United 
States, it is steep and above twenty feet in height, and a 
canal could not be made but at enormous expence. While wait- 
ing [for] the Province of Canada to make a canal on the only 
side in which it can be made, these enterprising people made 
a deep channel at the foot of their steep bank with a tow path 
for their Vessels, but the strength of the current makes the 
passage somewhat dangerous. This canal [they] will now do 
away with. The mines of copper ore that have been worked 
both by the citizens of the United States and the people of 
this province now demand a canal which otherwise would 
not have [been] made, although the fisheries of Lake Superior 
required a canal many years ago, but as yet, only the people 
of the States are engaged in these fisheries, although superior 
to that of any other which is always the case with deep water. 

^ Eighteen feet ; now increased to about nineteen and a half feet by 
the dredging of the St. Mary river below the Sault. 



Western country of Forests and Plains — Inhabitants — Build a 
Trading House at Red Deer Lake — Climate — Food during 
winter at Red Deer Lake — Porcupines — Beaulieu eats a 
■porcupine quill^ — Use of quills — Food of the porcupine — 
Intelligence of the porcupine — Stone Indians and Sieux — 
Customs — Religion — ^ Vozv — Family Feud — Trading House 
at the Fords of the Peace and Smoke Rivers — Iroquois, 
Nepissings, and Algonquins brought to the Western Forest 
land — Pride of the Iroquois — Encounter of Iroquois and 
Willow Indians — Council of Iroquois — Feast of Iroquois — 
Dances — Spikanoggan dances — Settlement of the Iroquois — 
Theories as to origen of the Indians. 

HITHERTO these travels have extended over a tract 
of country on the east parts of North America, which 
from it's formation I have called the Stoney Region 
(perhaps rocky, would be more appropriate). As akeady de- 
scribed, it is little else than rocks with innumerable Lakes and 
Rivers, and south of 58 degrees north has forests of small Pines, 
which increase in size going southward, with Aspin, Poplar 
and Birch, but northward of the above latitude the country is 
covered with various kinds of moss. Northward of 61 degrees 
this region may be said to extend to the Rocky Mountains. 
On the latitude 58 . 40 north this region from Churchill in 
Hudsons Bay extend[s] 640 miles to the westward and from 
Fort Albany in the same bay, on the parallel of 52 degrees, this 

^ There is no reference to this in the manuscript here printed. 



region is 660 miles in wi[d]th, including the Lakes on its west 
side. From Albany southward it's west side embraces the great 
Lakes Superior and Huron, the north bank of the Ottawa and 
S* Lawrence Rivers to the Gulf, and it's east side is everywhere 
bounded by the sea. On the whole of this great extent of 
country containing an area of about . . . square miles, the 
Deer and other wild animals of the forest are thinly scattered 
for the comparative extent of the country ; and the native 
Indians are in the same proportion. The summer is from five 
to six months, or more properly the open season, with frequent 
frosts, and heats, but always tormented with Musketoes and 
other flies. In the winter the snow is deep and the cold 
intense, in the months of December, January and February 
the Thermometer is for many days at fifty to seventy degrees 
below the freezing point. In the open season the Natives 
and Traders make use of Canoes, and in winter of flat sleds ; 
for removing from place to place. Such is the country of the 
north east, or Siberian, side of north America. 

For Agriculture it offers nothing to the farmer except a 
few places detached from each other, without a market ; nor 
can it become a grazing country, the torment of the flies is 
too great to allow cattle to graze until the cool nights of 
September ; the sufferings of the Deer must be seen to be 
believed ; even the timid Moose Deer on some days is so 
distressed with the flies, as to be careless of life, and the 
hunters have shot them in this state, and the cloud of flies 
about them [was] so great, and dense, that they did not dare 
to go to the animal for several minutes. Such cannot be a 
grazing country, especially when to this is added, a long cold 
winter with great depth of snow. We may therefore con- 
clude, that as all kind Providence has fitted the Arabians 
to live and enjoy his naked hot sandy deserts so the same 
merciful Being has fitted the Indian to live and enjoy his 
cold region of forests and deserts of snow. The means for the 
enjoyment of civilised life is denied to both, and the white 


man is unfitted to take the place of the Indian and the arabian. 
Modern geologists would consider this Stoney Region to be 
a formation that had been uncovered and left by the sea, 
long after the land to its westward, on which I shall now 

The climate of this region is best explained by the meteoro- 
logical tables kept. (To be in a note) that at Bedford House, ^ 
on the west bank of the Rein's Deer Lake, in Latitude 57° 23' 
N. Longitude 102 . 59 west. 





Mean heat 




least heat 


















































May 20 days 







In summer, the Thermometer for a few day in July, the 

heat was at 80 making the range of heat and cold to be 

136 degrees. The Ice in this great Lake was firm to the 

G^ day of July, when a heavy gale of wind broke it up. Where 

there is soil in the Pine Forests, the heat of summer thaws it 

only a few inches. 

At the Reed Lake^ in Latitude 54° 36' N. [Longitude] 

' Thompson spent the winter of 1796-97 at this house, just before 
leaving the service of the Hudson's Bay Company. 

* Reed lake is on the headwaters of Grass river, on the line of the 
Hudson Bay Railway from The Pas to Port Nelson. Thompson lived 
there during the winters of 1794—95 and 1805-06. 


1 00° 37' West the temperature of the following months 


+ + + 

October 8 days Mean 27 greatest 38 least heat i8 

+ + 

November d" 18 d" 34 d° 15 

- + - 
December d° 10 d" 31 d" 45 

- + 

January d° 21.3 d° 11 d° 47 

+ + - 

February d° 6 d° 39 d° 31 

+ + - 

March d" 6 d** 41 d° 30 

+ -;- - 

April d" 31 d" 63 d° 7 

+ + 

May 26 days d° 43 d" 72 d"" 19 

In the summer, for a few days in July the heat rises to 
88 degrees, and except in some few places of thick pine forests, 
the ground is thawed during the summer. 

Leaving the Stoney region and it's Lakes is a great extent 
of land of very different formation ; and extending west- 
ward to the foot of the Rocky Mountains ; it is almost wholly 
composed of earth, with few rocks, and only in the northern 
part has a few Lakes, none of them large ; This great body 
of dry land extends from the gulph of Mexico to beyond the 
Arctic Circle. From north of the parallel of 52 degrees to 
the latitude of 72 degrees the whole is a forest of mostly the 
Pine genus with, in favorable places. Birch, Poplar and Aspin. 

Southward of the latitude of 52 degrees are the great 
plains which extend to the Gulp of Mexico. The breadth of 
this land is from 550 to about 850 miles. This western 
country of forests and plains have Animals peculiar to itself ; 
and those that are common to both regions are here larger 
and in better condition from a somewhat milder climate, and 
more abundance of food. Of the Natives, there are none 
sufficiently numerous to be called " a Nation " I have there- 
fore called them " Tribes " though many of them speak 


languages quite distinct from each other. As the word Tribe 
may be a small number, speaking the same language, and 
holding firmly together as one great family. Such are the 
Rapid Indians,^ the Sussee " and Kootanae ^ Indians, each of 
these have a very different language, and each so rough and 
difficult to articulate that the neighbouring people rarely 
attempt to learn them. Each of these tribes may have a 
population of 500 to 1000 souls, to speak the language of it's 
Tribe, and this number is all that do speak the language. 
The intelligent people of the United States who have paid 
attention to the north American Indians have always been 
struck with the numerous radical Languages of the Indians, 
and from whence they could have come, but all lies in obscurity, 
and the few theories of learned men on the peopling of this 
continent are in general so contrary to facts, that they can be 
regarded only as theory. 

On the region of the western forest land, at a fine Lake 
called the Red Deers Lake,"* at the head of the small streams 

1 The Rapid Indians, technically known as Atsina, were usually 
spoken of by travellers in western Canada as Fall Indians or Gros Ventres 
of the Plains. They were a detached branch of the Arapaho nation, and 
were of Algonquin stock. On Arrowsmith's map of 181 1 they are marked 
as occupying the upper parts of the country drained by the Red Deer 
river, which is the northern branch of the South Saskatchewan river. 

^ The Sussee or Sarsi are a tribe of the Athapascan family which has 
become separated from the rest of the members of the family. At the 
beginning of the nineteenth century they occupied the country near the 
headwaters of the North Saskatchewan river, and between that stream 
and the Athabaska river. At present they are on a reserve near Calgary, 
Alberta, and in 191 1 numbered 205 all told. 

3 The Kutenai Indians form a distinct linguistic stock, occupying 
the country along the Upper Columbia river from the Upper Columbia 
lakes to Pend d'Oreille lake. Early in the eighteenth century they 
occupied the country east of the Rocky Mountains around the headwaters 
of the Belly river, but they were driven west across the mountains by 
the Blackfeet as soon as these latter obtained fire-arms from the white 

* This is Lake La Biche, 105 miles in a direct line north-east of the 
city of Edmonton, Alberta. Thompson spent at this place the winter of 


which feed the Beaver River the southern branch of the 
Churchill River in October we erected a trading house and 
passed the winter. Its Latitude 54° 46' 23" N Longitude 
111° 56' W. It's climate in 

+ + - 

November Mean temperature 13.5 greatest 37 least 6 

- + - 
December d" 6.5 d° 40 d° 48 

- + - 
January d" 5 d° 40 d° 48 

+ + - 

February d° 9 d° 43 d° 26 

+ + - 

March to the 14th . . d" 12 d° 44 d° 13 

This trading House is lof Minutes north and 11^ degrees 
west of the Reed Lake on the Stoney region, and so far 
shows a milder climate. Had the thermometer been con- 
tinued through the rest of the year, the difference would 
have been very great, and [it would be clear] that the tem- 
perature of April on this dry region is equal to that of May 
on the Stoney region from the lesser quantity of Snow, and 
the Sun exerting it's influence on the bare ground in April, 
which on the latter it does not do to the middle of May. 
The Lake from our set nets gave us fish of Pike,^ White Fish,^ 
Pickerel ^ and Carp * for about one third of our support, and 
the Hunters furnished the rest, which was almost wholly of 
the Moose Deer ; in five months they gave us forty nine 
Moose all within twenty miles of the House and a few Bull 
Bisons,^ whereas on the Stoney region, it woiild be a for- 
tunate trading house, that during the winter had the meat 

^ Esox lucius Linn. [E. A. P.] 

^ Coregonus. Lake La Biche is still famous for the number and quality 
of its whitefish. [E. A. P.] 

■" Stizostedion vitreum [MitchiW) . Wall-eyed Pike ; Dore. [E. A. P.] 

* Both Catostomus catostomus (Forster), and Moxostoma lesueuri prob- 
ably occur. [E. A. P.] 

* Bison bison (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 



of six Moose Deer^ brought to it, and even that quantity 
would rarely happen. 

On this region all the animals attain their full size. (Note. 
A male Beaver,^ allowed to be full grown and in good condition, 
measured from the tip of the nose to the insertion of the tail, 
three feet and half an inch, the tail thirteen inches in length, 
by seven inches in breadth. Girth round the breast thirty 
two inches ; round the hind quarters thirty six inches. The 
head five inches in length. Its weight as aHve sixty five 
pounds. A Porcupine^ from the tip of the nose to the in- 
sertion of the tail twenty six inches, the tail ten inches in 
length, round and closely armed with barbed quills ; Girth 
roimd the breast twenty inches ; the hair of a dark grey, 
intermixed with which are his well barbed quills which are 
very slightly fixed in the skin, the quill is white to the barb 
which is black, and are placed from his shoulders to, and on 
the tail, the sides and belly have none ; they are thickest and 
longest on the rump. They are from one to two and a half 
[inches] in length, some few about three inches, and near a 
quarter of an inch in girth : on the larger quills the barbed 
part is half an inch in length, containing small circular barbs 
through its length. 

When approached it places it's head under its breast, lies 
down and presents only it's back and tail, and if an animal 
attempts to seize him it gives a jerk with it's back, which 
drives the quills deep into it's mouth, and are held fast by 
the barbs, and prevents all farther attacks. Confident of 
their power of defence, they pursue their slow walk, careless 
of the barking of Dogs, the yelping of Foxes, or other 
animals. A hungry Fox or Fisher will sometimes try to turn 
it on it's back but gets it's nose and face so full of quills, as 
to desist. 

» A Ices americanus (Clinton). [E. A. P.] 
^ Castor canadensis Kuhl. [E. A. P.] 
^ Erethizon dorsatitm (Linn.). [E. A. P.] 


The natives that traded at this House, were about thirty 
Nahathaway and the same number of Swampy Ground Stone 
Indians^ who still continue to prefer their ancient mode of 
life to living in the Plains, where the rest of their Tribes are : 
The languages of both these people are soft and easy to learn 
and speak, that of the Stone Indians is so agreeable to the 
ear, it may be called the Italian Language of North America ; 
and by the Tribes of these people under the name of Sieux 
extends over the east side of the Plains and down a consider- 
able distance of the upper part of the Mississippe. Their 
opinions, rites and ceremonies of religion are much the same 
as the Nahathaways, with whom they are strictly allied. All 
these people are superior in stature and good looks, to the 
generality of those of the Stoney Region from a better country 
and a greater supply of food. They have their Medicine 
Bags which is generally filled with sweet smeUing vegetables, 
and have the bones of some particular part of the Beaver, 
Otter, Musk, Rat, Racoon, Bear and Porcupine, mostly of 
the head, or hind parts, to which they attach a superstitious 
virtue especially to those of their Poowoggan, the Manito of 
which they regard as favorable to them. 

They all hold the doctrine of the immortality of the Soul, 
or as they call it, " Life after Death " and their Ideas of the 
other world is much the same as they have of their present 
existence, only heightened to constant happiness in social life 
and success in hunting without fatigue. They all hope to be 
happy after death, if the Great Spirit finds them to be good ; 
whether he will do so, does not occupy much of their thoughts 
in the prime of life, but as age advances is frequently the 
subject of their conversations for they have much time to 
spare, and few subjects to engross their attention. They all 

^ These are Assiniboin or Stone Indians, who prefer to live in the 
woods. The Assiniboin are a branch of the Sioux family which broke 
away from the parent stock, and moved northward towards the Sas- 
katchewan river. See note on p. 326. 


agree that the crimes committed is marked on the soul, and 
thus marked enters the other world ; They believe that those 
who were placed in the happy state had their Souls clean 
and white, but none could inform me how the stains on the 
Soul had been eradicated, this is a doctrine too profound for 
them, and on which they were utterly at a loss : they feel it 
and have some ceremonies and sacrifices to obtain it, but in 
which they place Httle confidence. 

A man who had been guilty of a crime, (I could not learn 
what it was) enjoined on himself the penance of eating nothing 
for a whole year, that was not placed in his mouth, and which 
he steadily kept. He afterwards declared that he would never 
again make such another vow as the provisions thus placed in 
his mouth was not enough and badly cooked ; which the 
Indians said he deserved for placing himself in the power of 
other people, and in a manner making them his servants. 

An Indian named Askeeawawshish (Son of the Earth) 
between 40 and 50 years of age, and whom I found a good 
man and respected by the natives when a young man un- 
fortunately became heir to a fued between his family, and 
that of another family, and each had to retaHate the injuries 
of times past. One spring on the arrival of the wild geese, 
when the Indians collect together to enjoy the season, these 
two famihes met, the young man of the head of the other 
family had often said, he would on the first occasion have his 
revenge ; and sought it of Askeeawawshish, but fell himself 
in the encounter, some twenty five years before the time I 
am speaking of. The Indians related this to do away with 
any impressions I might have against him ; As I understood 
that he was still continuing his penance for having shed 
human blood, I was anxious to learn of himself what were 
his thoughts on this sad subject. His relation was. After the 
first excitement was over of myself and the family to which 
I belonged I became melancholy and disheartened, I no 
longer enjoyed hunting and as both family were nearly 


related, the Women said that I aught to go to war and kill a 
Snake Indian that he might have a slave to attend him in 
the other world. This would please him and make us friends 
when we met in the other world. Thus the summer passed 
away, and a very hard winter came on, deep snow with heavy 
gales of wind with long calms between made hunting so 
difficult that we could hardly maintain ourselves ; this made 
the old people change my penance for another in which I 
was not to leave them, and my penance now is, and from 
that time has been, at the first dawn of day to rise take my 
rattle and sing to the Great Spirit to make me good and a 
skilful hunter, and when I die to blot out the mark of the 
red blood on my soul, for I feel perfectly perswaded it will 
remain with me as long as I Hve, and every crime we commit 
is in the same state. Such is the confession of every serious 
Native, they knew of nothing by which the pardon of sins 
can be obtained and although many of us spoke their language 
sufficiently fluent for trade and the common business yet we 
found ourselves very deficient if we attempted to impress on 
them any doctrine of Christianity beyond the unity of God, 
his creation and preservation of mankind and of everything 
else, to all which they readily assented as consonant to truth 
and their own ideas. 

On taking the necessaries which they require for the winter 
season, and which are mostly on credit ; several of them, 
especially of those advanced in Hfe, have made a bargain with 
me, that if they should die in the winter I should not demand 
the debt due to me, in the other world, and to which I always 
agreed. The life of a Hunter is precarious, but a provident 
family will make dried provisions for hard times, and let 
things be as hard as is sometimes [the case], the Indian sees 
none better than himself, and knows he is master of every- 
thing he can secure by hunting, or otherwise ; Whereas to 
the constant labor of the lower classes of Europe they live in 
penury without daring to touch the abundance all around 


them. The Natives that live in Villages may profit by the 
labors of a prudent Missionary, but the wandering Indians 
that live wholly by hunting, and are rarely more than a few 
days in [one] place, and in this only by families cannot hope 
for the labors of a Missionary ; the little they can learn must 
come from the Traders, and if they cannot learn morahty 
from them, [they] can teach them to leave off the worship 
and sacrif[ic]ing a dog to the Mauchee Manito (the Devil) and 
leave off prayers to the inferior Manitoes, and direct all their 
prayers and thanksgiving to the Great Spirit alone, the Master 
of Life. 

On the more northern part of this great western forest, 
at the Forks of the Peace and Smoke Rivers, (the principal 
stream which forms the Mackenzie.) in Latitude 56° 8' 17" N. 
Longitude 117° 13' 14" W the temperatures for the year 



Mean 10 


Greatest heat 





Range 88° degrees 


dp 7 






d" 79 


d" 22.5 








d" 89 


d« 37-6 







d" 55 


d° 64 







d'^ 50 


d" 64.5 








d" 42 


d" 63 








d" 38 


d" 60 








d" 47 


d° 55 







d" 65 


d° 40 





d- 52 


d" 14.6 





d'^ 54 


d" 4 





d'^ 57 










The trading house at the Forks of the River ^ is about 
150 miles eastward of the foot of the Rocky Mountains and 
its elevation above the level of the sea about 4000 feet. 

The whole of the great western forest had very many 
Beaver, it had few Lakes, but what was better for the Beaver 
many small brooks, and streams which they dammed up and 
made Ponds for their houses, and the Natives had thus an 
anual supply of furrs to trade all they required, and had the 
furr trade been placed in the hands of one company under 
the control of govern[ment] might have continued to do so 
to this time ; but from Canada the trade was open to every 
adventurer, and some of these brought in a great number of 
Iroquois, Nepissings and Algonquins^ who with their steel 
traps had destroyed the Beaver on their own lands in Canada 
and New Brunswick ; The two latter, the men were tall, 
manly, steady and good hunters, the few women they brought 
with them were good looking and well behaved and their 
dress came to the feet and both sexes [were] respected by the 
Natives. The Iroquois formed about half the number of 
these immigrants, they considered themselves superior to all 
other people, especially the white people of Canada, which 
they carried in their countenances, being accustomed to show 
themselves off in dances and flourishing their tomahawks 
before the civiHzed people of Canada, and making speeches 
on every occasion, which were all admired and praised through 
politeness to them, gave them a high opinion of themselves : 
The few women they brought with them were any thing but 
beauty and their dress was careless with the shirt on the 
outside and petticoats to only a Httle below the knees, the 
toes and feet turned inwards which made them walk Hke 

^ This post had been built by Sir Alexander Mackenzie in the autumn 
of 1792, when he was on his way from Lake Athabaska to the Pacific 
coast. In it he and his assistant, Alexander McKay, spent the winter of 
1792-93. Thompson was at this post during the winters of 1802-03 ^^^ 

2 This influx of eastern Indians occurred about 1798. 


ducks, so different from the slender tall forms of the women 
of the Plains, their easy, graceful walk, and dress touching 
the ground. Part of these went up the Red Deer River, 
and about 250 of them came up the Saskatchewan River, in 
company with the canoes of the Fur Traders to one of the 
upper Posts called Fort Augustus^ where the River passes 
through fine Plains, upon the banks and in the interior 
country are numerous herds of Bisons and several kinds of 
Deer,^ and many Bears ^ of several colours. The Algonquins 
and Nepissings paid every attention to the advice given to 
them, and performed the voyage without accident ; but the 
Iroquois treated our warnings with contempt ; When advised 
to be cautious in the hunting of the Bison, especially when 
wounded ; they would laugh and say they killed an ox with 
the stroke of an axe, and should do the same to the Bisons. 
The second day in hunting one of them wounded a Bull 
which ran at him, and although he avoided the full stroke of 
the head, yet was so much hurt that it was about two months 
before he was well. The next day as two of them was cross- 
ing a low point of wood near the river, they saw a Bull, fired 
at and wounded him, the Bull rushed on one of them who 
to escape ran behind an old rotten stump of a tree of about 
ten feet high, the furious animal came dash against it, threw 
it down and the man lay beneath it, the Bull also fell on it, 
and rolled off ; The comrade of the poor fellow ran to the 
river and hailed the canoes ; several of the Men came, the 
Bison was dying, they took the stump away, but the Iroquois 
was crushed and dead. These two accidents somewhat 

^ See description of this fort on p. 432. 

* The Mule Deer, Odocoileus hemionus (Rafinesque), and rarely the 
Plains White-tailed Deer, O. virginianus macrourus (Rafinesque), still 
occur ; the Elk or Wapiti, Cervus canadensis Erxleben, was formerly 
common. [E. A. P.] 

' The Black Bear, Ursus americanus Pallas, occurs in both the or- 
dinary black and the cinnamon colour phases. Formerly the Grizzly 
Bear, Ursus horribilis Ord, was frequently found. [E. A. P.] 


lowered their pride as they found that even their guns could 
not always protect them. 

A few days after, as two of them were hunting (they always 
went by two) they met a colored Bear/ which one of them 
wounded, the Bear sprung on him, and standing on his hind 
feet seized the Iroquois hugging him with his fore legs and 
paws, which broke the bones of both arms above the elbow, 
and with it's teeth tore the skin of the head from the crown 
to the forehead, for the poor fellow had drawn his knife to 
defend himself, but could not use it ; fortunately his comrade 
was near, and putting his gun close to the Bear shot him 
dead. The poor fellow was a sad figure, none of us were 
surgeons, but we did the best we could, but for want of 
proper bandageing his arms were three months in getting 
well. These accidents happening only to the Iroquois made 
them superstitious and they concluded that some of the 
Algonquins had thrown bad medicine on them, and a quarrel 
would probably have taken place had we not been with 
them. These accidents were the fault of their mode of 
hunting, being accustomed to hunt only timid animals, and 
keeping about one hundred yards from each other, to cover 
more ground did very well for Deer ; but to hunt the animals 
of the upper countries as the Bison and Bear and which are 
fierce and dangerous, requires the two hunters to be close to 
each other, the one reserving his fire in case of the wounded 
animal being able to attack them ; they were faulty in their 
hunting until experience taught them better. 

The native hunt mostly alone, and from the precautions 
very seldom meet with an accident. On arrival at Fort 
Augustus aU these people had to disperse and go to some 
place to pass the winter and make their furr hunts. The hills 
to the southward, at the foot of the mountains were known 
to have many Beavers, and thither they were disposed to go ; 
but at a kind of council, we pointed out the dangers they 
* Grizzly Bear, Ursus horribilis Ord. [E. A. P.] 


would encounter, as it was the country of the powerful tribes 
of the Plains who had gained the country by war, and held 
it as a conquered country open to the incursions of their 
enemies, in which they would probably be destroyed, or at 
least plundered ; by some of the war parties ; and advised 
them to go to the forest lands of the north where there were 
also many Beaver, the Natives few and peaceable, and where 
they could hunt in safety. This advice was directly followed 
by the Algonquins and Nepissings, they separated themselves 
into small parties and passed the winter in safety and made 
good hunts. This advice had a very different eifect on the 
Iroquois, who determined to send oif a large party to examine 
the country to the southward and see what the disposition 
of the Natives were to them, whom they appeared to 
despise. Accordingly part hunted near the Fort while a 
party of about seventy five men well armed went off, foolishly 
taking their self conceit and arrogance with them. They 
soon came to a small camp of Peeagans ^ the owners of the 
country, and all their enquiry was where the Beavers were 
most plenty as if they were masters of the country. As they 
did not understand each other, the whole was by signs, at 
which the Indians were tolerably expert. The Peeagans did 
not know what to make of them, but let them pass. In this 
manner they passed two more small camps to the fourth 
which was a larger camp of WiUow Indians.^ Having now 
proceeded about eighty miles, they agreed to go no farther 
spend a few days and return. 

Although the Natives did not much Hke their behaviour, 
they treated them hospitably as usual to strangers. After 
smoking and feasting, they performed a dance ; and then 
sitting down, by signs invited the Willow Indians to a 
gambHng match, this soon brought on a quarrel, in which 

* See note on p. 327. 

^ It is most likely that Thompson here refers to the Atsina or Fall 
Indians, whose country was on the upper waters of the Red Deer river. 


the arrogant gestures of the Iroquois made the other party- 
seize their arms, and with their guns and Arrows lay dead 
twenty five of them ; the others fled, leaving their blankets 
and a few other things to the Willow Indians, and returned 
to Fort Augustus in a sad state. This affair made the Indians 
of the Plains look on them with contempt for allowing so many 
to be killed like women, without even firing a shot in their 
defence, for the Willow Indians were but a few more than the 
Iroquois, and mostly armed with Bows and Arrows, which 
whatever may be thought by civilized men, is a dreadful 
weapon in the hands of a good Archer. The defeated Iroquois 
sent word of their misfortune to the parties that were hunt- 
ing, and alltogether collected about 1 20 men ; Councils were 
held and war parties to be formed for revenge, to which the 
Nahathaway Indians, (the natives and masters of the country) 
were invited, in hopes they would join them ; but all to no 
purpose, the Nahathaways told them they would not enter 
into their quarrel against their old allies, and pointed out to 
them that three times their numbers would make no impres- 
sion on the Indians ; they were numerous, good cavalry and 
accustomed to war, adding, you, yourselves, may go and take 
your revenge, but we do not think any of you will return. 
All this lowered their self conceit and arrogance, they saw 
plainly the Natives of those countries had no great opinion 
of them, and giving up all thought of revenge, as they were 
now to separate for the winter agreed to make a feast and 
perform all their dances, to which the Nahathaways were 
invited ; The next day they all appeared in their best dresses ; 
and the feast took place about noon of the choice pieces of 
the Bison and Red Deer ; ^ at which as usual, grace was said 
and responded to by the guests. 

The feast being over the dances began by the Iroquois 
and their comrades ; after a few common dances, they com- 
menced their favorite dance of the grand Calumet, which 

^ Cervus canadensis Erxleben. [E. A. P.] 


was much admired and praised, and they requested the 
Nahathaways to dance their grand Calumet, to which they 
replied, they had no smoking dance ; this elated the Iroquois 
and they began their War dance, from the discovery of the 
enemy to the attack and scalping of the dead, and the war 
hoop of victory. The Nahathaways praised them. The 
Iroquois being now proud of their national dances, requested 
the Nahathaways to see their War dance, and intimating 
they thought they had none, which was in a manner saying 
they were not warriors. 

I felt for my old friends and looking round, saw the smile 
of contempt on the Hps of Spikanoggan (the Gun Case), a 
fine, stern warrior of about fifty years of age, with whom I 
had been long acquainted, and whom I knew excelled in the 
dance. I asked if he intended to take up the challenge, he 
said, he had no wish to show himself off in dancing before 
these strangers ; " You certainly do not wish them to return 
to their own country and report of you as so many women. 
You Spikanoggan, your eye never pitied, nor your hand ever 
spared an enemy, is the fittest man to represent your country 
men in the War dance ; and show these strangers what you 
are. Somewhat nettled, he arose, put on a light war dress, 
and with his large dagger in his right hand he began the War 
dance, by the Scout, the Spy, the Discovery, the return to 
camp, the Council, the silent march to the ambuscade, the 
war whoop of attack, the tumult of the battle, the Yells of 
doubtful contest and the war whoop of victory ; the pursuit, 
his breath short and quick the perspiration pouring down on 
him his dagger in the fugitive, and the closing war whoop of 
the death of his enemy rung through our ears. The varying 
passions were strong] y marked in his face, and the whole was 
performed with enthusiasm. The perfect silence, and all 
eyes rivetted on him, showed the admiration of every one, 
and for which I rewarded him. The Iroquois seemed lost in 
surprise, and after a few minutes said, our dances please our- 


selves and also the white people and Indians wherever we go, 
but your dance is war itself to victory and to death. It was 
evident they were much mortified and at length one of them 
remarked that he did not scalp his enemy to which he repHed 
in contempt ; " any old woman can scalp a dead man." I 
was much pleased with the effect this dance had on the 
Iroquois, it seemed to bring them to their senses, and showed 
them that the Indians of the interior countries were fully 
as good Warriors, Hunters, and Dancers, as themselves. They 
lost aU their self conceit and arrogance but became plain 
well behaved men, left off talking of war, and turned to 
hunting. Having taken on credit from the Traders their 
necessaries for the winter, they separated into small parties 
of two or three, each having about six steel traps for beaver, 
of light workmanship with strong elastic springs of which the 
bait is the castorum of the beaver, caUed the beaver medicine. 
They chose their hunting grounds to the westward and north- 
ward among the forests at the east foot of the Rocky Moun- 
tains. None of the Natives formed a favourable opinion of 
the Iroquois ; for their whole number they had only about 
six women with them, each had a husband ; and they could 
not conceive how men could Hve without women ; they also 
looked on them as a dirty people for sleeping in their clothes, 
for the dress that an Iroquois put on in November he will 
walk and sleep in till the month of April, and longer if it 
does not wear away, so very contrary to the customs and 
habits of the Natives. 

The learned men of Europe have their theories on the 
origen of the North American Indians and from whence they 
came, and from want of information have decided, and set the 
question at rest, by asserting, they all came direct from the east 
coast of Asia, a theory so contrary to facts, their own tradi- 
tion, and all other movements since the furr traders came first 
among them, particularly of those from Canada. This subject I 
shall pass over at present, and reserve to the end of my travels. 



Country at the east foot of the Mountains — Cumberland House, 
the first Trading House of the HudsorCs Bay Company — 
Trading on the Saskatchewan — Abundance of animals — 
Tribes of the Plains — Description of early days of trading — 
Buckingham House built — Small pox — Despair of the Indian 
Camps — Traders distress for want of provisions — How the 
small pox was caught — Fur of the wolves and dogs who fed 
on the dead bodies — Disappearance of animals — Trading 
with the Peeagan Indians — Journey in search of Indians — 
One Pine — Find a camp of Indians. 

IT must now be remembered that what I now relate is 
of the great body of dry land at the east foot of the 
Mountains, the northern part of forests and the 
southern of Plains through which roll the Mississoure and its 
tributaries, the Bow and Saskatchewan rivers with their many 

The Hudson's Bay Company did not extend their settle- 
ments into the interior country for several years after Canada, 
in 1763, was ceded to England. Their first trading house 
was made by M^ Samuel Hearne in 1774 at the sortie of the 
Saskatchewan into the Lakes, and was so well situated that it 
is continued to this day under the name of Cumberland 
House,^ its situation has been changed two or three times 

* Cumberland House is situated on the south side of Pine Island lake, 
through which the Saskatchewan river now flows on its way from the 
Forks to Cedar lake and Lake Winnipeg. It is in latitude 53° 56' 44" N., 
longitude 102° 13' W. It was founded in the autumn of 1774 by Samuel 
Hearne of the Hudson's Bay Company, who came inland from York Fac- 



from wood for fuel and other purposes, having worn too far 
from the house. 

Previous to this the Fur Traders from Canada had ex- 
tended their Houses a hundred miles beyond up the 
Saskatchewan, and considerable to the northward on the head 
waters of the Churchill River. About 1776, the Hudson's 
Bay Company under M*^ Tomison, built a trading house ^ 
about 120 miles up the first named River. At this time the 
Nahathaway Indians were very numerous and engrossed to 
themselves all the Goods brought by the Fur Traders, the 
Animals of every kind were in abundance. Provisions of all 
kinds of meat so plentiful, and forced upon the Traders, 
that all that could be done, was to take a httle from each, 
to give him a little Tobacco, Ammunition to those that had 
Guns, and Beads, Awls &c to the Women, for they claim a 
right to the dried Provisions as the Men do to the Furrs. 

tory with eight white men and two Indians, and on his return to Hudson 
Bay in the following year he left it in charge of Mathew Cocking, who in 
1772 had made an exploratory trip inland to see where the Canadians were 
established. On this trip Cocking had learned that the Canadians as- 
cended the Saskatchewan as far as Pine Island lake, and from there they 
either continued on up the river, or turned northward to Beaver lake 
and Churchill river. Consequently a house, 38 feet long and 26 feet wide, 
was built at the parting of the two routes, and it was found to be so favour- 
ably situated that the site has been continuously occupied by a trading 
post ever since. At the time when Cumberland House was built, Fro- 
bisher had a post to the north of it on Beaver lake, and Finlay or one of 
his associates had a post up the Saskatchewan river, but they very soon 
came down and built beside their rivals, the Hudson's Bay Company. 

' Hudson House, apparently called after a clerk in the employ of the 
Hudson's Bay Company named George Hudson. It was situated on the 
west side of the Saskatchewan river in Sect. 32, Tp. 46, R. 3, west of 
the Third Meridian. It was 280 miles above Cumberland and 80 miles 
above the Forks, just about the place where the traveller, in ascending 
the river, would emerge from the forest and come out on the great plains. 
After having been occupied for an uncertain number of years this place 
was abandoned, and another settlement was built twelve or fourteen miles 
farther down the river, and within the edge of the forest. This latter post 
is spoken of by Thompson as Lower Hudson House. The position of the 
upper of the two houses, and the Saskatchewan river below it, is said to 
have been surveyed by Philip Tumor in 1777 and 1778. 


The great Tribes of the Plains were only known by name 
to the Traders ; and the state of the country as described to 
me by some old furr traders, and particularly by Mitchell 
Oman,^ a native of the Orkney Islands, who had been several 
years in the Hudson Bay service. He was without education, 
yet of a superior mind to most men, curious and inquisitive, 
with a very retentive memory Of those times he said, " our 
situation was by no means pleasant, the Indians were very 
numerous, and although by far the greater part behaved 
well, and were kindly to us, yet amongst such a number there 
will always be bad men, and to protect ourselves from them 
we had to get a respectable chief to stay with, and assist us 
in trading, and prevent as much as possible the demands of 
these Men ; there were two houses from Canada, one was 
under a M"^ Cole, who by not taking this precaution got into 
a quarrel and was shot ; ^ The next year we went up the River 
about 350 miles above Cumberland House and built a trading 
house which we named Buckingham house,^ and which was 

* Mitchell Oman was a native of Stromness, and in 1798-99 was in the 
employ of the Hudson's Bay Company as a steersman and pilot at £^0 a 
year. As he could not write, necessary accounts were signed by him with 
his mark. Thompson went up the Saskatchewan with him in 1786, and he 
appears to have been more or less continually on the river until 1796, when 
we find him in charge of Cumberland House. In 1799 he went from York 
Factory to England ; but where he was after that is unknown. 

^ Cole's trading post, called by Alexander Henry the younger Fort 
Montagne d'Aigle, was situated on a low bottom on the north side of the 
Saskatchewan river, nine or ten miles below the mouth of Battle river. 
Cole was a Canadian trader who had spent the winter of 1779-80 at this 
place. In the spring, just as he and his associates were about to leave 
with their furs, he gave an Indian some laudanum in a glass of liquor 
which killed him, and in retaliation he was killed by the other Indians. 
All the other white men were obliged to abandon everything and escape 
as best they could down the river. Oman speaks of the occurrence as if 
he had been there, and as he was an employee of the Hudson's Bay Com- 
pany, the Company probably had a post beside the others at the time. 

' The term "the next year " would seem to refer to the autumn of 
1780. Thompson quotes Oman as saying that they went up the river 
350 miles above Cumberland and built Buckingham House ; but Buck- 
ingham House of the Hudson's Bay Company, and its neighbour. Fort 


situated on the left bank of the River, where it passes thro' 
the northern part of the great Plains, which freed us from 
being wholly among the Nahathaways and allowed the Indians 
of the Plains to trade with us, and the houses from Canada. 
But still our situation was critical, and required all our 
prudence ; The following year, as usual, we went to York 
Factory with the furrs, and returned with goods for the 
winter trade ; we proceeded about 150 miles up the River 
to the Eagle Hills, where we saw the first camp and some of 
the people sitting on the beach to cool themselves, when we 
came to them, to our surprise they had marks of the small 
pox, were weak and just recovering, and I could not help 
saying, thank heaven we shall now get relief. For none of us 
had the least idea of the desolation this dreadful disease had 
done, until we went up the bank to the camp and looked into 
the tents, in many of which they were all dead, and the 
stench was horrid ; Those that remained had pitched their 
tents about 200 yards from them and were too weak to move 
away entirely, which they soon intended to do ; they were in 

George of the North-West Company, were 550 miles above Cumberland, 
or 350 miles above the Forks. The next spring they took their furs down 
the river, and in the autumn they had returned up the river as far as the 
Eagle Hills, near where Cole was killed, before they met any Indians who 
were suffering from smallpox. This must have been in 1781, for it was 
in the late summer and autumn of that year that this frightful disease 
swept across the plains and reached the Saskatchewan. According to this 
statement of Thompson, Buckingham House was first built by Mitchell 
Oman in 1780 ; but if so, it must have been temporarily abandoned 
shortly afterwards, perhaps on account of the sacking of York Factory 
by the French in 1782. In 1784 the uppermost post of the North-West 
Company on the Saskatchewan appears to have been that kept by Edward 
Umfreville, sixty miles below the site of Buckingham House, and when 
Thompson entered the country of the great plains in 1786 he assisted to 
build Manchester House, forty miles below Umfreville's post, and this was 
the most western trading post of the Hudson's Bay Company at the time. 
Fort George was built (or rebuilt) by Angus Shaw of the North- West 
Company in 1792, and both it and Buckingham House were abandoned 
in 1 80 1 in favour of Island Fort, eighteen miles farther up the river. It 
was situated on the north side of the river in or near Sect. 19, Tp. 56, R. 5, 
west of the Fourth Meridian. 



such a state of despair and despondence that they could 
hardly converse with us, a few of them had gained strength 
to hunt which kept them aHve. From what we could learn, 
three fifths had died under this disease ; Our Provisions were 
nearly out and we had expected to find ten times more than 
we wanted, instead of which they had not enough for them- 
selves ; They informed us, that as far as they knew all the 
Indians were in the same dreadful state, as themselves, and 
that we had nothing to expect from them. 

We proceeded up the River with heavy hearts, the Bisons 
were crossing the River in herds, which gave us plenty of 
provisions for the voyage to our wintering ground. 

When we arrived at the House instead of a crowd of 
Indians to welcome us, all was soHtary silence, our hearts 
failed us. There was no Indian to hunt for us ; before the 
Indians fell sick, a quantity of dried provisions had been 
collected for the next summers voyage, upon which we had 
to subsist, until at length two Indians with their families 
came and hunted for us. These informed us, that the Indians 
of the forest had beaver robes in their tents some of which 
were spread over the dead bodies, which we might take, and 
replace them by a new blanket and that by going to the tents 
we would render a service to those that were living by fur- 
nishing them with tobacco, ammunition, and a few other neces- 
saries and thus the former part of the winter was employed. 
The bodies lately dead, and not destroyed by the Wolves and 
Dogs, for both devoured them, we laid logs over them to 
prevent these animals. 

From the best information this disease was caught by the 
Chipaways (the forest Indians) and the Sieux (of the Plains) 
about the same time, in the year 1780, by attacking some 
famihes of the white people, who had it, and wearing their 
clothes. They had no idea of the disease and its dreadful 

From the Chipaways it extended over all the Indians of 


the forest to it's northward extremity, and by the Sieux over 
the Indians of the Plains and crossed the Rocky Mountains. 
More Men died in proportion than Women and Children, for 
unable to bear the heat of the fever they rushed into the 
Rivers and Lakes to cool themselves, and the greater part 
thus perished. The countries were in a manner depopulated, 
the Natives allowed that far more than one half had died, 
and from the number of tents which remained, it appeared 
that about three fifths had perished ; despair and despondency 
had to give way to active hunting both for provisions, clothing 
and all the necessaries of Hfe ; for in their sickness, as usual, 
they had offered allmost every thing they had to the Good 
Spirit and to the Bad, to preserve their lives, and were in a 
manner destitute of everything. All the Wolves^ and Dogs 
that fed on the bodies of those that died of the Small Pox 
lost their hair especially on the sides and belly, and even 
for six years after many Wolves were found in this condition 
and their furr useless. The Dogs were mostly killed. 

With the death of the Indians a circumstance took place 
which never has, and in all probability, never will be accounted 
for. I have already mentioned that before that dreadful 
disease appeared among the Indians they were numerous, and 
the Bison, Moose, Red, and other Deer more so in proportion 
and Provisions of Meat, both dried and fresh in abundance. 
Of this all the Traders and Indians were fuUy sensible, and it 
was noted by the Traders and Natives, that at the death of 
the latter, and there being thus ^educed to a small number, 
the numerous herds of Bison and Deer also disappeared both 
in the Woods and in the Plains, and the Indians about 
Cumberland House declared the same of the Moose, and the 
Swans, Geese and Ducks with the Gulls no longer frequented 
the Lakes in the same number they used to do ; and where 
they had abundance of eggs during the early part of the 
Summer, they had now to search about to find them. As I 

* Canis occidentalis Richardson. [E. A. P.] 


was not in the country at this time I can only give the 
assertion of the Traders and the Natives, w^ho could have no 
interest in relating this sad state of the country. In the 
early part of September 1786 I entered these countries and 
from that time can speak from my own personal knowledge. 

In the following October, six men and myself, were fitted 
out with a small assortment of goods, to find the Peeagan 
Indians and winter with them : to induce them to hunt for 
furrs, and make dried Provisions ; to get as many as possible 
to come to the houses to trade, and to trade the furrs of those 
that would not come. Each of us had a Horse, and some had 
two furnished by ourselves. Our road lay through a fine 
country with slight undulations of ground, too low to be 
called HiUs, everywhere clothed with fine short grass and 
hummocks, or islands of wood, almost wholly of Aspin and 
small, but straight, growth. About the tenth day we came 
to the " One Pine." This had been a fine stately tree of 
two fathoms girth, growing among a patch of Aspins, and 
being all alone, without any other pines for more than a 
hundred miles, had been regarded with superstitious reverence. 
When the small pox came, a few tents of Peeagans were camp- 
ing near it, in the distress of this sickness, the master of one 
of the tents applied his prayers to it, to save the lives of 
himself and family, burned sweet grass and offered upon its 
roots, three horses to be at it's service, all he had, the next 
day the furniture of his horses with his Bow and Quiver of 
Arrows, and the third morning, having nothing more, a Bowl 
of Water. The disease was now on himself and he had to 
lie down. Of his large family only himself, one of his wives, 
and a Boy survived. As soon as he acquired strength he 
took his horses, and all his other offerings from the " Pine 
Tree," then putting his little Axe in his belt, he ascended 
the Pine Tree to about two thirds of it's height, and there 
cut it off, out of revenge for not having saved his family ; 
when we passed the branches were withered and the tree 
going to decay. 


For three and twenty days we marched over fine grounds 
looking for the Indians without seeing any other animals than 
a chance Bull Bison, from the killing of a few we procured 
our provisions. 

We found a Camp on the south side of the Bow River 
from its tender grass the favorite haunts of the Bisons, yet 
this camp had only provisions by daily hunting, and our 
frequent removals led us over a large tract of country, on 
which we rarely found the Bisons to be numerous, and various 
camps with whom we had intelHgence were in the same 
state with the Camp we lived with. It is justly said, that 
as Mankind decrease, the Beasts of the earth increase, but in 
this calamity the natives saw aU decrease but the Bears. 
And dried provisions of meat before so abundant that they 
could not be traded, were now sought as much as furrs. 
The enquiries of inteUigent Traders into this state of the 
Animals from the Natives were to no purpose. They merely 
answered, that the Great Spirit having brought this calamity 
on them, had also' taken away the Animals in the same pro- 
portion as they were not wanted, and intimating the Bisons 
and Deer were made and preserved solely for their use ; and 
if there were no Men there would be no Animals. The 
Bisons are vagrant, wandering from place to place over the 
great Plains, but the Moose and other Deer are supposed to 
keep within a range of ground, whicJa they do not willingly 
leave, but all were much lessened in number. A few years 
after I passed over nearly the same grounds and found the 
Bisons far more numerous.^ 

^ This statement gives us some idea of the position of the place where 
Thompson spent the winter with the Piegan in 1787-88, for the only 
other occasion on which he visited the Bow river was in the autumn of 
1800, when he was living at Rocky Mountain House on the Saskatchewan 
river. On that occasion he explored the country south of the Bow river 
from the mouth of Highwood river westward to " The Gap " at the foot of 
the Rocky Mountains, so that we may infer that he also spent his first 
winter on the plains in this same vicinity. 



Plain Indians — Stone Indians — Fall Indians — -Sussees — Peeagans 
— Blood Indians — Blackfeet — Saukamappee^s account of 
former times — War of Peeagans and Snake Indians — Assist- 
ance of Nahathaways — Preparations for battle — Story of 
Saukamappee^s life — Small pox caught from Snake Indians 
by the Peeagans — Treachery of Snake Indians — War Council 
— Two Indians killed by a grizled bear — Burning the bear 
— Continue journey — Consultation of Indians — Fifty 
warriors sent to examine the country — Return of the warriors 
— Story of encounter with the Snake Indians told by Sauka- 
mappee'^s son — Reproof of young men by Saukamappee. 

THE Indians of the Plains are of various Tribes and 
of several languages which have no affinity with 
each other. 
The Stone Indians ^ are a large tribe of the Sieux Nation, 
and speak a dialect, differing little from the Sieux tongue, 
the softest and most pleasing to the ear of all the Indian 
languages. They have always been, and are, in strict alliance 
with the Nahathaways, and their hunting grounds are on the 
left bank of the Saskatchewan and eastward and southward 

^ The Stone Indians or Assiniboin are a tribe of the Sioux which 

separated from the parent family before the advent of white men, and 

went northward and formed an alUance with the Cree. In 191 1 there 

were 1,393 of them in Canada,, and in 1904 there were 1,234 ^'^^ ^^e United 

States, making a total of ifozj, or nearly 500 less than Thompson's 

estimate of a century ago. 



to the upper part of the Red River, and their number 400 
Tents each containing about eight souls, in all 3200. 

The Fall Indians,^ their former residence was on the 
Rapids of the Saskatchewan, about 100 miles above Cumber- 
land House ; they speak a harsh language, which no other 
tribe attempts to learn, in number about 70 tents at ten 
souls to each tent. They are a tall well made muscular 
people, their countenances manly, but not handsome. Their 
Chief was of a bad character, and brought them into so many 
quarrels with their allies, they had to leave their country 
and wander to the right bank of the Missisourie, to near the 
Mandane villages. The Sussees,^ are about ninety tents and 
may number about 650 souls. They are brave and manly, 
tall and well limbed, but their faces somewhat flat, and cannot 
be called handsome. They speak a very guttural tongue 
which no one attempts to learn. 

The next of the three tribes of the Peeagan, called 
Peeaganakoon, the Blood Indians (Kennekoon) and the Black- 
feets (Saxeekoon) ' these all speak the same tongue, and their 
hunting grounds [are] contiguous to each other ; these were 
formerly on the Bow River, but now [extend] southward to 
the Missisourie. 

All these Plains, which are now the hunting grounds of 
the above Indians, were formerly in full possession of the 

^ The Fall Indians or Atsina, a detached branch of the Arapaho, who 
were formerly allies of the Blackfeet. None of them are now living in 
Canada. See note on p. 224. 

"^ See note on p. 304. 

^ The Piegan, Bloods, and Blackfeet are the three tribal subdivisions 
of the Blackfoot or Siksika nation. They belong to the Algonquin lin- 
guistic family, which includes the Cree, Chippewa, and many other tribes. 
In historic times they have always been inhabitants of the great plains. 
In 1911 there were 2,337 ^^ Canada, and in 1909,^2,195 in the United 
States, making a total of 4,532. The account given on this and the fol- 
lowing pages is one of the most interesting and accurate accounts of this 
people that has ever been presented, and the story of the old man Sauka- 
mappee carries the history of the Piegan back considerably beyond any 
previous authentic record. 


Kootanaes/ northward. ; the next the Saleesh ^ and their allies, 
and the most southern, the Snake Indians^ and their tribes, 
now driven across the Mountains. The Peeagan in whose 
tent I passed the winter was an old man of at least 75 to 80 
years of age ; his height about six feet, two or three inches, 
broad shoulders, strong Hmbed, his hair gray and plentiful, 
forehead high and nose prominent, his face sHghtly marked 
with the small pox, and alltogether his countenance mild, 
and even, sometimes playfull ; although his step was firm 
and he rode with ease, he no longer hunted, this he left to his 
sons ; his name was Saukamappee (Young Man) ; his account 
of former times went back to about 1730 and was as follows. 

The Peeagans were always the frontier Tribe, and upon 
whom the Snake Indians made their attacks, these latter 
were very numerous, even without their allies ; and the 
Peeagans had to send messengers among us to procure help. 
Two of them came to the camp of my father, and I was then 
about his age (pointing to a Lad of about sixteen years) he 
promised to come and bring some of his people, the Nahatha- 
ways with him, for I am myself of that people, and not of 
those with whom I am. My father brought about twenty 
warriors with him. There were a few guns amongst us, but 
very little ammunition, and they were left to hunt for the 
famiHes ; Our weapons was a Lance, mostly pointed with 
iron, some few of stone, A Bow and a quiver of Arrows ; 
the Bows were of Larch, the length came to the chin ; the 
quiver had about fifty arrows, of which ten had iron points, 

^ See p. 304. 

* The Saleesh, or Salish, are a linguistic family inhabiting the south- 
east portion of Vancouver Island, and much of the southern mainland of 
British Columbia. Those of the interior are divided into the Lillooet, 
Shuswap, Okinagan, Flatheads, &c. Many of these were encountered by 
Thompson in his travels west of the Rocky Mountains. In 1909, in both 
Canada and the United States, the coast Salish numbered 8,474, and those 
of the interior 10,378, or a total of 18,852. 

' A name applied to many different bodies of Shoshonean Indians, 
but most persistently to those of eastern Oregon. 


the others were headed with stone. He carried his knife on 
his breast and his axe in his belt. Such was my fathers weapons, 
and those with him had much the same weapons. I had a 
Bow and Arrows and a knife, of which I was very proud. 
We came to the Peeagans and their allies. They were camped 
in the Plains on the left bank of the River (the north side) 
and were a great many. We were feasted, a great War Tent 
was made, and a few days passed in speeches, feasting and 
dances. A war chief was elected by the chiefs, and we got 
ready to march. Our spies had been out and had seen a 
large camp of the Snake Indians on the Plains of the Eagle 
Hill, and we had to cross the River in canoes, and on rafts, 
which we carefully secured for our retreat. When we had 
crossed and numbered our men, we were about 350 warriors 
(this he showed by counting every finger to be ten, and hold- 
ing up both hands three times and then one hand) they had 
their scouts out, and came to meet us. Both parties made a 
great show of their numbers, and I thought that they were 
more numerous than ourselves. 

After some singing and dancing, they sat down on the 
ground, and placed their large shields before them, which 
covered them : We did the same, but our shields were not 
so many, and some of our shields had to shelter two men. 
Theirs were all placed touching each other ; their Bows 
were not so long as ours, but of better wood, and the back 
covered with the sinews of the Bisons which made them very 
elastic, and their arrows went a long way and whizzed about 
us as balls do from guns. They were all headed with a sharp, 
smooth, black stone (flint) which broke when it struck any- 
thing. Our iron headed arrows did not go through their 
shields, but stuck in them ; On both sides several were 
wounded, but none lay on the ground ; and night put an 
end to the battle, without a scalp being taken on either 
side, and in those days such was the result, unless one party 
was more numerous than the other. The great mischief of 


war then, was as now, by attacking and destroying small 
camps of ten to thirty tents, which are obliged to separate 
for hunting : I grew to be a man, became a skilfull and 
fortunate hunter, and my relations procured me a Wife. She 
was young and handsome and we were fond of each other. 
We had passed a winter together, when Messengers came 
from our allies to claim assistance. 

By this time the affairs of both parties had much changed ; 
we had more guns and iron headed arrows than before ; 
but our enemies the Snake Indians and their alHes had Miss- 
tutim (Big Dogs, that is Horses) on which they rode, swift 
as the Deer, on which they dashed at the Peeagans, and with 
their stone Pukamoggan knocked them on the head, and they 
had thus lost several of their best men. This news we did 
not well comprehend and it alarmed us, for we had no idea 
of Horses and could not make out what they were. Only 
three of us went and I should not have gone, had not my 
wife's relations frequently intimated, that her father's medi- 
cine bag would be honored by the scalp of a Snake Indian. 
When we came to our allies, the great War Tent [was made] 
with speeches, feasting and dances as before ; and when the War 
Chief had viewed us all it was found between us and the Stone 
Indians we had ten guns and each of us about thirty balls, and 
powder for the war, and we were considered the strength of the 
battle. After a few days march our scouts brought us word 
that the enemy was near in a large war party, but had no 
Horses with them, for at that time they had very few of 
them. When we came to meet each other, as usual, each 
displayed their numbers, weapons and shiel[d]s, in aU which 
they were superior to us, except our guns which were not 
shown, but kept in their leathern cases, and if we had shown 
[them], they would have taken them for long clubs. For a 
long time they held us in suspense ; a taU Chief was forming 
a strong party to make an attack on our centre, and the 
others to enter into combat with those opposite to them ; 


We prepared for the battle the best we could. Those of us 
who had guns stood in the front line, and each of us pbad] 
two balls in his mouth, and a load of powder in his left hand 
to reload. 

We noticed they had a great many short stone clubs for 
close combat, which is a dangerous weapon, and had they 
made a bold attack on us, we must have been defeated as 
they were more numerous and better armed than we were, 
for we could have fired our guns no more than twice ; and 
were at a loss what to do on the wide plain, and each Chief 
encouraged his men to stand firm. Our eyes were all on the 
tall Chief and his motions, which appeared to be contrary to 
the advice of several old Chiefs, all this time we were about 
the strong flight of an arrow from each other. At length the 
tall chief retired and they formed their long usual line by 
placing their shields on the ground to touch each other, the 
shield having a breadth of full three feet or more. We sat 
down opposite to them and most of us waited for the night 
to make a hasty retreat. The War Chief was close to us, 
anxious to see the effect of our guns. The lines were too far 
asunder for us to make a sure shot, and we requested him 
to close the line to about sixty yards, which was gradually 
done, and lying flat on the ground behind the shields, we 
watched our opportunity when they drew their bows to shoot 
at us, their bodies were then exposed and each of us, as 
opportunity offered, fired with deadly aim, and either killed, 
or severely wounded, every one we aimed at. 

The War Chief was highly pleased, and the Snake Indians 
finding so many killed and wounded kept themselves behind 
their shields ; the War Chief then desired we would spread 
ourselves by two's throughout the line, which we did, and our 
shots caused consternation and dismay along their whole line. 
The battle had begun about Noon, and the Sun was not yet 
half down, when we perceived some of them had crawled 
away from their shields, and were taking to flight. The War 


Chief seeing this went along the Hne and spoke to every Chief 
to keep his Men ready for a charge of the whole line of the 
enemy, of which he would give the signal ; this was done by 
himself stepping in front with his Spear, and calling on them 
to follow him as he rushed on their line, and in an instant 
the whole of us followed him, the greater part of the enemy 
took to flight, but some fought bravely and we lost more 
than ten killed and many wounded ; Part of us pursued, and 
killed a few, but the chase had soon to be given over, for at 
the body of every Snake Indian killed, there were five or six 
of us trying to get his scalp, or part of his clothing, his weapons, 
or something as a trophy of the battle. As there were only 
three of us, and seven of our friends, the Stone Indians,, we 
did not interfere, and got nothing. 

The next morning the War Chief made a speech, praising 
their bravery, and telling them to make a large War Tent 
to commemorate their victory, to which they directly set to 
work and by noon it was finished. 

The War Chief now called on all the other Chiefs to 
assemble their men and come to the Tent. In a short time 
they came, all those who had lost relations had their faces 
blackened ; those who killed an enemy, or wished to be 
thought so, had their faces blackened with red streaks on the 
face, and those who had no pretensions to the one, or the 
other, had their faces red with ochre. We did not paint our 
faces until the War Chief told us to paint our foreheads and 
eyes black, and the rest of the face of dark red ochre, as having 
carried guns, and to distinguish us from all the rest. Those 
who had scalps now came forward with the scalps neatly 
streched on a round willow with a handle to the frame ; they 
appeared to be more than fifty, and excited loud shouts and 
the war whoop of victory. When this was over the War 
Chief told them that if any one had a right to the scalp of 
an enemy as a war trophy it ought to be us, who with our 
guns had gained the victory, when from the numbers of our 


enemies we were anxious to leave the field of battle ; and 
that ten scalps must be given to us ; this was soon collected, 
and he gave to each of us a Scalp. All those whose faces 
were blackened for the loss of relations, or friends, now came 
forward to claim the other scalps to be held in their hands 
for the benefit of their departed relations and friends ; this 
occasioned a long conversation with those who had the scalps ; 
at length they came forward to the War Chief, those who had 
taken the trophy from the head of the enemy they had killed, 
said the Souls of the enemy that each of us has slain, belong 
to us, and we have given them to our relations which are in 
the other world to be their slaves, and we are contented. 
Those who had scalps taken from the enemy that were found 
dead under the shields were at a loss what to say, as not one 
could declare he had actually slain the enemy whose scalp he 
held, and yet wanted to send their Souls to be the slaves of 
their departed relations. This caused much discussion ; and 
the old Chiefs decided it could not be done, and that no one 
could send the soul of an enemy to be a slave in the other 
world, except the warrior who actually killed him ; the scalps 
you hold are trophies of the Battle, but they give you no 
right to the soul of the enemy from whom it is taken, he 
alone who kills an enemy has a right to the soul, and to give 
it to be a slave to whom he pleases. This decision did not 
please them, but they were obliged to abide by it. The old 
Chiefs then turned to us, and praising our conduct in the 
battle said, each of you have slain two enemies in battle, if 
not more, you will return to your own people, and as you 
are young men, consult with the old men to whom you shall 
give the souls of those you have slain ; until which let them 
wander about the other world. The Chiefs wished us to 
stay, and promised to each of us a handsome young wife, 
and [to] adopt us as their sons, but we told them we were 
anxious to see our relations and people, after which, perhaps 
we might come back. After all the war ceremonies were 


over, we pitched away in large camps with the women and 
children on the frontier of the Snake Indian country, hunting 
the Bison and Red Deer which were numerous, and we were 
anxious to see a horse of which we had heard so much. At 
last, as the leaves were falling we heard that one was killed 
by an arrow shot into his belly, but the Snake Indian that rode 
him, got away ; numbers of us went to see him, and we all 
admired him, he put us in mind of a Stag that had lost his 
horns ; and we did not know what name to give him. But 
as he was a slave to Man, like the dog, which carried our 
things ; he was named the Big Dog.^ 

We set off for our people, and on the fourth day came to a 
camp of Stone Indians, the relations of our companions, who 
received us well and we staid a few day[s]. The Scalps were 
placed on poles, and the Men and Women danced round 
them, singing to the sound of Rattles, Tambours and flutes. 
When night came, one of our party, in a low voice, repeated 
to the Chief the narrative of the battle, which he in a loud 
voice walking about the tents, repeated to the whole camp. 
After which, the Chiefs called those who followed them to a 
feast, and the battle was always the subject of the conversa- 
tion and driving the Snake Indians to a great distance. There 
were now only three of us to proceed, and upon enquiry, 
[we] learned a camp of our people, the Nahathaways were 

^ We have here, for the first time, a circumstantial account of the use 
of horses by the Snake Indians west of the Rocky Mountains, and of the 
first sight of one of these animals by any of the Blackfeet, and the clear 
inference that the Blackfeet obtained their horses first from the Snake 
Indians, and not from the Indians to the south of them east of the moun- 
tains. Thompson's date of 1730 as the time of the Blackfeet-Snake 
war, when the Blackfeet obtained their first horses, must be approximately 
correct, for in 1754, when the same Indians were visited by Anthony 
Hendry from York Factory, the Blackfeet had very many horses, and 
their neighbours, the Assiniboin, had a few. Horses had been fairly 
abundant in America in post-Tertiary times, but like the mammoth and 
the mastodon had become extinct, and it was not until the middle of the 
sixteenth century that they were reintroduced on this continent by the 


a days journey's from us. and in the evening we came to 
them, and all our news had to be told, with the usual songs 
and dances ; but my mind was wholly bent on making a 
grand appearance before my Wife and her Parents, and pre- 
senting to her father the scalp I had to ornament his Medi- 
cine Bag : and before we came to the camp we had dressed 
ourselves, and painted each other's faces to appear to the 
best advantage, and were proud of ourselves. On seeing 
some of my friends I got away and went to them, and by 
enquiries learned that my parents had gone to the low 
countries of the Lakes, and that before I was three Moons 
away my wife had given herself to another man, and that her 
father could not prevent her, and they were all to the north- 
ward there to pass the winter. 

At this unlooked for news I was quite disheartened ; I 
said nothing, but my heart was swollen with anger and re- 
venge, and I passed the night scheming mischief. In the 
morning my friends reasoned with me upon my vexation 
about a worthless woman, and that it was beneath a warrior 
anger, there were no want of women to replace her, and a 
better wife could be got. Others said, that if I had staid 
with my wife instead of running away to kill Snake Indians, 
nothing of this would have happened. My anger moderated, 
I gave my Scalp to one of my friends to give to my father, 
and renouncing my people, I left them, and came to the 
Peeagans who gave me a hearty welcome; and upon my 
informing them of my intention to remain with them the 
great Chief gave me his eldest daughter to be my wife, she 
is the sister of the present Chief, and as you see, now an old 

The terror of that battle and of our guns has prevented 
any more general battles, and our wars have since been 
carried by ambuscade and surprize, of small camps, in which 
we have greatly the advantage, from the Guns, arrow shods 
of iron, long knives, flat bayonets and axes from the Traders. 


While we have these weapons, the Snake Indians have none, 
but what few they sometimes take from one of our small 
camps which they have destroyed, and they have no Traders 
among them. We thus continued to advance through the 
fine plains to the Stag River ^ when death came over us all, 
and swept away more than half of us by the Small pox, of 
which we knew nothing until it brought death among us. 
We caught it from the Snake Indians." Our Scouts were out 
for our security, when some returned and informed us of a 
considerable camp which was too large to attack and some- 
thing very suspicious about it ; from a high knowl they had 
a good view of the camp, but saw none of the men hunting, 
or going about ; there were a few Horses, but no one came 
to them, and a herd of Bisons [were] feeding close to the 
camp with other herds near. This somewhat alarmed us as 
a stratagem of War ; and our Warriors thought this camp 
had a larger not far off ; so that if this camp was attacked 
which was strong enough to offer a desperate resistance, the 
other would come to their assistance and overpower us as 
had been once done by them, and in which we lost many 
of our men. 

The council ordered the Scouts to return and go beyond 
this camp, and be sure there was no other. In the mean 
time we advanced our camp ; The scouts returned and said 
no other tents were near, and the camp appeared in the same 
state as before. Our Scouts had been going too much about 
their camp and were seen ; they expected what would follow, 
and all those that could walk, as soon as night came on, went 
away. Next morning at the dawn of day, we attacked the 
Tents, and with our sharp liat daggers and knives, cut through 
the tents and entered for the fight ; but our war whoop 

1 This refers undoubtedly to the Red Deer River, which joins with 
the Bow River to form the South Saskatchewan. 

^ Here is a definite statement and account of how smallpox was 
carried from the Snake Indians to the Blackfeet, and doubtless also to 
their allies, the Cree and Assiniboin. 


instantly stopt, our eyes were appalled with terror ; there 
was no one to fight with but the dead and the dying, each a 
mass of corruption. We did not touch them, but left the 
tents, and held a council on what was to be done. We all 
thought the Bad Spirit had made himself master of the camp 
and destroyed them. It was agreed to take some of the best 
of the tents, and any other plunder that was clean and good, 
which we did, and also took away the few Horses they had, 
and returned to our camp. 

The second day after this dreadful disease broke out in 
our camp, and spread from one tent to another as if the Bad 
Spirit carried it. We had no belief that one Man could give 
it to another, any more than a wounded Man could give his 
wound to another. We did not suffer so much as those that 
were near the river, into which they rushed and died. We 
had only a Httle brook, and about one third of us died, but 
in some of the other camps there were tents in which every 
one died. When at length it left us, and we moved about 
to find our people, it was no longer with the song and the 
dance ; but with tears, shrieks, and howHngs of despair for 
those who would never return to us. War was no longer 
thought of, and we had enough to do to hunt and make 
provision for our famiHes, for in our sickness we had consumed 
all our dried provisions ; but the Bisons and Red Deer were 
also gone, we did not see one half of what was before, whither 
they had gone we could not tell, we believed the Good Spirit 
had forsaken us, and allowed the Bad Spirit to become our 
Master. What Httle we could spare we offered to the Bad 
Spirit to let us alone and go to our enemies. To the Good 
Spirit we offered feathers, branches of trees, and sweet 
smeUing grass. Our hearts were low and dejected, and we 
shall never be again the same people. To hunt for our 
famiHes was our sole occupation and kill Beavers, Wolves and 
Foxes to trade our necessaries ; and we thought of War no 
more, and perhaps would have made peace with them for 



they had suffered dreadfully as well as us and had left all this 
fine country of the Bow River to us. 

We were quiet for about two or three winters, and 
although we several times saw their young men on the scout 
we took no notice of them, as we all require young men, to 
look about the country that our famihes may sleep in safety 
and that we may know where to hunt. But the snake Indians 
are a bad people, even their allies the Saleesh and Kootanaes 
cannot trust them, and do not camp with them, no one 
beHeves what they say, and [they] are very treacherous ; 
every one says they are rightly named Snake People, for their 
tongue is forked like that of a Rattle Snake, from which they 
have their name. I think it was about the third falling of 
the leaves of the trees, that five of our tents pitched away 
to the valleys of the Rocky Mountains, up a branch of this 
River (the Bow) to hunt the Big Horn Deer (Mountain 
Sheep) as their horns make fine large bowls, and are easily 
cleaned ; they were to return on the first snow. All was 
quiet and we waited for them until the snow lay on the 
ground, when we got alarmed for their safety ; and about 
thirty warriors set off to seak them. It was only two days 
march, and in the evening they came to the camp, it had 
been destroyed by a large party of Snake Indians, who left 
their marks, of snakes heads painted black on sticks they had 
set up. The bodies were all there with the Women and 
Children, but scalped and partly devoured by the Wolves 
and Dogs. 

The party on their return related the fate of our people, 
and other camps on hearing the news came and joined us. 
A War Tent was made and the Chiefs and Warriors assembled, 
the red pipes were filled with Tobacco, but before being 
lighted an old Chief arose, and beckoning to the Man who 
had the fire to keep back, addressed us, saying, I am an old 
man, my hair is white and [I] have seen much : formerly 
we were healthy and strong and many of us, now we are few 


to what we were, and the great sickness may come again. 
We were fond of War, even our Women flattered us to war, 
and nothing was thought of but scalps for singing and dancing. 
Now think of what has happened to us all, by destroying 
each other and doing the work of the bad spirit ; the Great 
Spirit became angry with our making the ground red with 
blood : he called to the Bad Spirit to punish and destroy us, 
but in doing so not to let one spot of the ground, to be red 
with blood, and the Bad Spirit did it as we all know. Now 
we must revenge the death of our people and make the 
Snake Indians feel the effects of our guns, and other weapons ; 
but the young women must all be saved, and if any has a 
babe at the breast it must not be taken from her, nor hurt ; 
all the Boys and Lads that have no weapons must not be 
killed, but brought to our camps, and be adopted amongst 
us, to be our people, and make us more numerous and stronger 
than we are. Thus the Great Spirit will see that when we 
make war we kill only those who are dangerous to us, and 
make no more ground red with blood than we can help, and 
the Bad Spirit will have no more power on us. Everyone 
signified his assent to the old Chief, and since that time, it 
has sometimes been acted on, but more with the Women 
than the Boys, and while it weakens our enemies makes us 
stronger. A red pipe was now lighted and the same old 
Chief taking it, gave three whiffs to the Great Spirit praying 
him to be kind to them and not forsake them, then three 
whiffs to the Sun, the same to the Sky, the Earth and the 
four Winds ; the Pipe was passed round, and other pipes 
lighted. The War Chief then arose, and said Remember my 
friends that while we are smoking the bodies of our friends 
and relations are being devoured by wolves and Dogs, and 
their Souls are sent by the Snake Indians to be the slaves of 
their relations in the other world. We have made no war 
on them for more than three summers, and we had hoped to 
live quietly until our young men had grown up, for we are 


not many as we used to be ; but the Snake Indians, that race 
of Hars, whose tongues are like rattle snakes, have already 
made war on us, and we can no longer be quiet. The country 
where they now are is but little known to us, and if they did 
not feel themselves strong they would not have dared to 
have come so far to destroy our people. We must be 
courageous and active, but also cautious ; and my advice is, 
that three scout parties, each of about ten warriors with a 
Chief at their head, take three different directions, and 
cautiously view the country, and not go too far, for enough 
of our people are aheady devoured by wolves and our business 
is revenge, without loosing our people. 

After five days, the scout parties returned without seeing 
the camp of an enemy, or any fresh traces of them. Our 
War Chief Kootanae Appe was now distressed, he had ex- 
pected some camp would have been seen, and he concluded, 
the Snake Indians had gone to the southward to their aUies, 
to show the scalps they had taken and make their songs and 
dances for the victory, and in his speech denounced constant 
war on them until they were exterminated. Affairs were in 
this state when we arrived, and the narrative [of the] old 
man having given us the above information, [he] lighted his 
pipe ; and smoking it out said, the Snake Indians are no 
match for us ; they have no guns and are no match for us, 
but they have the power to vex us and make us afraid for the 
small hunting parties that hunt the small deer for dresses 
and the Big Horn for the same and for Bowls. They keep 
us always on our guard. 

A few days after our arrival, the death cry was given, and 
the Men all started out of the Tents, and our old tent mate 
with his gun in his hand. The cry was from a young man 
who held his Bow and Arrows, and showed one of his thighs 
torn by a grizled bear, and which had killed two of his com- 
panions. The old Man called for his powder horn and shot 
bag, and seeing the priming of his gun in good order, he set 


off with the young man for the Bear, which was at a short 
distance. They found him devouring one of the dead. The 
moment he saw them he sat up on his hind legs, showing them 
his teeth and long clawed paws, in this, his usual position, 
to defend his prey, his head is a bad mark, but his breast 
offers a direct mark to the heart, through which the old Man 
sent his ball and killed him. The two young men who were 
destroyed by the Bear, had each, two iron shod Arrows, and 
the camp being near, they attacked the bear for his skin and 
claws. But unfortunately their arrows stuck in the bones of 
his ribs, and only irritated him ; he sprung on the first, and 
with one of his dreadful fore paws tore out his bowels and three 
of his ribs ; the second he seized in his paws, and almost 
crushed him to death, threw him down, when the third 
Indian hearing their cries came to their assistance and sent 
an arrow, which only wounded him in the neck, for which 
the Bear chased him, and slightly tore one of his thighs. 
The first poor fellow was still alive and knew his parents, in 
whose arms he expired. The Bear, for the mischief he had 
done was condemned to be burnt to ashes, the claws of his 
fore paws, very sharp and long, the young man wanted for a 
collar but it was not granted ; those that burned the Bear 
watched until nothing but ashes remained. 

The two young men were each wrapped up separately in 
Bison robes, laid side by side on the ground, and covered with 
logs of wood and stones, in which we assisted. By the advice 
of the civil chief in his speeches in the early part of every 
night ; we pitched southward to about eighty miles beyond 
the Bow River. We had a few showers of snow, which soon 
melted, the herds of Bisons were sufficient for daily use, but 
not enough for dried provisions. However a council was 
held, and as they did not intend to go farther south towards 
the Snake Indians, but after hunting about where they were 
for a Moon, return to the northward to trade their furrs, 
whether it would not be adviseable to know if their enemies 


were near them or not. After consultation it was agreed to 
send out a war chief, with about fifty warriors to examine 
the country for a few days journey. The Chief soon collected 
his warriors and having examined their arms, and [having 
seen] that every one had two pair of shoes, some dried pro- 
visions and other necessaries, in the evening the principal 
War Chief addressed the Chief at the head of the party ; 
reminding him that the warriors now accompaning him would 
steadily follow him, that they were sent to destroy their 
enemies, not to be killed themselves, and made the slaves of 
their enemies, that he must be wise and cautious and bring 
back the Warriors entrusted to his care. Among them was 
the eldest son of the Old Man in whose tent we lived. They 
all marched off very quietly, as if for hunting. After they 
were gone ; the old man said it was not a war party, but one 
of those they frequently sent, under guidance of those who 
had showed courage and conduct in going to war, for we 
cannot afford to lose our people, we are too few, and these 
expeditions inure our men to long marches and to suffer 
hunger and thirst. At the end of about twenty days they 
returned with about thirty live Horses in tolerable condition, 
and fifteen fine mules, which they had brought away from a 
large camp of Snake Indians. The old Man's son gave him 
a long account of the business. On the sixth evening the 
scouts ahead came and informed the Chief, that we must be 
near a camp, as they had seen horses feeding : night came 
on, and we went aside to a wood of cotton and poplar trees 
on the edge of a brook, in the morning some of us climbed 
the trees and passed the day, but saw nothing. In the night 
we went higher up the brook, and as it was shoal, we walked 
in it for some distance, to another wood, and there lay down. 
Early the next morning, a few of us advanced through the 
wood, but we had not gone far, before we heard the women 
with their dogs come for wood for fuel. Some of us returned 
to the Chief, and the rest watched the women, it was near 


midday before they all went away, they had only stone axes 
and stone clubs to break the wood ; they took only what 
was dry, and cut none down. Their number showed us the 
camp must be large, and sometimes some of them came so 
close to us, that we were afraid of being discovered. The 
Chief now called us round him, and advised us to be very 
cautious, as it was plain we were in the vicinity of a large 
camp, and manage our little provisions, for we must not 
expect to get any more until we retreated ; if we fire a gun 
at the Deer it will be heard ; and if we put an arrow in a 
deer and he gets away, and they see the deer, it will alarm 
them, and we shall not be able to get away. My intention 
is to have something to show our people, and when we re- 
treat, take as many horses as we can with us, to accomplish 
which, we must have a fair opportunity, and in the mean 
time be hungry, which we can stand some time, as we have 
plenty of water to drink. We were getting tired, and our 
solace was of an evening to look at the horses and mules. At 
length he said to us to get ready, and pointing to the top of the 
Mountains, [said] see the blue sky is gone and a heavy storm 
is there, which will soon reach us ; and so it did : About 
sunset we proceeded thro' the wood, to the horses, and with 
the lines we carried, each helping the other, we soon had a 
horse or a mule to ride on. We wanted to drive some with 
us, but the Chief would not allow it ; it was yet daylight 
when we left the wood, and entered the plains, but the Storm 
of Wind was very strong and on our backs, and at the gallop, 
or trot, so as not to tire our horses, we continued to mid- 
night, when we came to a brook, with plenty of grass, and 
let them get a good feed. After which we held on to sun 
rising, when seeing a fine low ground, we staid the rest of the 
day, keeping watch until night, when we continued our 
journey. The storm lasted two days and greatly helped us. 

The old Man told his son, who, in his relation had inti- 
mated he did not think the Chief very brave ; that it was 


very fortunate that he was under such a Chief, who had acted 
so wisely and cautiously ; for had he acted otherwise not one 
of you would have returned, and some young men coming 
into the tent whom he supposed might have the same opinions 
as his son, he told them ; " that it required no great bravery 
for a War Party to attack a small camp, which they were sure 
to master ; but that it required great courage and conduct, 
to be for several days in the face of a large camp undis- 
covered ; and each of you to bring away a horse from the 
enemy, instead of leaving your own scalps." ^ 

^ This is the end of Saukamapee's story, the chief features of which 
are the mode of fighting on foot before fire-arms were introduced, the 
introduction of fire - arms, probably obtained from York Factory on 
Hudson Bay, the introduction of the horse among the Blackfeet, and the 
terrible epidemic of smallpox of 1781. 



Land of the Peeagans, Blackfeet and Blood Indians — Manners 
and Customs of the Peeagan Civil and Military Chiefs — 
The war chief Kootanaea-p-pi — Appearance of Peeagans — 
Wear no caps — Thickness of skull — Origen — Apathy — 
Adornment of the men — Ornaments of the women — Appear- 
ance and dress of the women — Dress of men — Marriages — 
Polygamy — Punishment of adultery — Elopements — Poonokow 
— Treatment of the Dead — Character — Fear of disgrace — 
Punishment of children. 

THE Peeagans, with the tribes of the Blood, and Black- 
feet Indians, who all speak the same language, are 
the most powerful of the western and northern 
plains, and by right of conquest have their west boundary to 
the foot of the Rocky Mountains, southward to the north 
branches of the Missisourie, eastward for about three hundred 
miles from the Mountains and northward to the upper part 
of the Saskatchewan. Other tribes of their allies also at times 
hunt on part of the above, and a great extent of the Plains, 
and these great Plains place them under different circum- 
stances, and give them peculiar traits of character from those 
that hunt in the forests. These latter live a peaceable life, 
with hard labor, to procure provisions and clothing for their 
famiHes, in summer they make use of canoes, and in winter 
haul on sleds all they have, in their frequent removals from 
place to place. On the other hand the Indians of the Plains 
make no use of canoes, frequently stay many days in a place, 



and when they remove have horses and dogs, both in summer 
and winter to carry their baggage and provisions : they have 
no hard labor, but have powerful enemies which keep them 
constantly on the watch and are never secure but in large 
camps. The manners and customs of all these tribes of the 
Plains, are much alike, and in giving those of the Peeagans, 
it may serve for all the others. Being the frontier tribe, 
they lead a more precarious and watchful Hfe than other 
tribes, and from their boyhood are taught the use of arms, 
and to be good warriors, they become martial and more 
moral than the others, and many of them have a chivalrous 
bearing, ready for any enterprise. They have a civil and 
military Chief. The first was called Sakatow, the orator, and 
[the office] appeared hereditary in his family, as his father had 
been the civil Chief, and his eldest son was to take his place 
at his death and occasionally acted for him. The present 
chief was now about sixty years of age (1800) about five 
feet ten inches in height, remarkably well made, and in his 
youth a very handsome man. He was always well dressed, 
and his insignia of office, was the backs of two fine Otter 
skins covered with mother of pearl, which from behind his 
neck hung down his breast to below the belt ; When his 
son acted for him, he always had this ornament on him. In 
every council he presided, except one of War. He had 
couriers which went from camp to camp, and brought the 
news of how things were, of where the great herds of Bisons 
were feeding, and of the direction they were taking. The 
news thus collected, about two or three hours after sun set, 
walking about the camp, he related in a loud voice, making 
his comments on it, and giving advice when required. His 
language was fluent, and he was admired for his eloquence, 
but not for his principles and his advice could not be depended 
on, being sometimes too violent, and more Hkely to produce 
quarrels than to allay them yet his influence was great. 

The War Chief was Kootanae Appe (Kootanae Man) 


his stature was six feet six inches, tall and erect, he appeared 
to be of Bone and Sinew with no more flesh, than absolutely- 
required ; his countenance manly, but not stern, his features 
prominent, nose somewhat aquiline, his manners kind and 
mild ; his word was sacred, he was both loved and respected, 
and his people often wished him to take a more active part 
in their affairs but he confi,ned himself to War, and the care 
of the camp in which he was, which was generally of fifty to 
one hundred tents, generally a full day's march nearer to the 
Snake Indians than any other camp. It was supposed he 
looked on the civil Chief with indifference as a garrulous old 
man more fit for talking than any thing else, and they rarely 
camped together. Kootanae Appe by his five wives had 
twenty two sons and four daughters. His grown up sons 
were as tall as himself and the others promised the same. 
He was friendly to the White Men, and in his speeches re- 
minded his people of the great benefit of [which] the Traders 
were to them, and that it was by their means they had so 
many useful articles, and guns for hunting, and to conquer 
their enemies. He had acquired his present station and 
influence from his conduct in war. He was utterly averse to 
small parties, except for horse stealing, which too often brought 
great hardships and loss of life. He seldom took the field 
with less than two hundred warriors but frequently with 
many more ; his policy was to get as many of the allies to 
join him as possible, by which all might have a share of the 
honour and plunder, and thus avoid those jealousies and 
envyings so common amongst the Chiefs. He praised every 
Chief that in the least deserved it, but never appeared to 
regard fame as worth his notice yet always took care to 
deserve it, for all his exped[it]ions were successful. 

The Peeagans and their allies of the Plains, with us, would 
not be counted handsome. From infancy they are exposed 
to the weather and have not that softness of expression in 
their countenances which is so pleasing, but they are a fine 


race of men, tall and muscular, with manly features, and 
intelligent countenances, the eye large, black and piercing, 
the nose full and generally straight, the teeth regular and 
white, the hair long, straight and black ; their beards, appa- 
rently would be equal to those of white men, did they not 
continually attempt to eradicate it ; for when [they are] 
grown old and no longer pluck out the hairs they have more 
beard than could naturally be expected. Their color is some- 
thing like that of a Spaniard from the south of Spain, and 
some like that of the French of the south of France, and this 
comparison is drawn from seeing them when bathing together. 

In questioning them of their origen and from whence 
they formerly came they appear to have no tradition beyond 
the time of their great granfathers, that they can depend on, 
and in their idle time, sometimes [this] is the subject of their 
conversation. They have no tradition that they ever made 
use of canoes, yet their old men always point out the North 
East as the place they came from, and their progress has 
always been to the south west. Since the Traders came to 
the Saskatchewan River, this has been their course and 
progress for the distance of four hundred miles from the 
Eagle Hills to the Mountains near the Mississourie but this 
rapid advance may be mostly attributed to their being armed 
with guns and iron weapons. Of their origen, they think 
themselves and all the animals to be indigenus, and from all 
times existing as at present. 

The Indians are noticed for their apathy, this is more 
assumed than real ; in public he wishes it to appear that 
nothing can affect him, but in private he feels and expresses 
himself sensible to every thing that happens to him or to his 
family. After all his endeavours to attain some object in 
hunting, or other matters, and cannot do it, he says, the 
" Great Spirit will have it so," in the same manner as we say 
" It is the will of Providence." Civilized Men have many 
things to engage their attention and to take up their time, 


but the Indian is very different, hunting is his business, not 
his amusement, and even in this he is Hmited for want of 
ammunition hence his whole life is in the enjoyments of his 
passions, desires and affections contracted within a small circle, 
and in which it is often intense. 

The Men are proud of being noticed and praised as good 
hunters, warriors, or any other masculine accompHshment, 
and many of the young men as fine dandies as they can make 
themselves. I have known some of them to take full an hour 
to paint their faces with White, Red, Green, Blue and Yellow, 
or part of these colors, with their looking glasses, and advising 
one another, how to lay on the different colors in stripes, 
circles, dots and other fancies ; then stand for part of the 
day in some place of the camp to be admired by the women. 
When married all this painting is at an end, and if they will 
paint it [is] only with one color, as red, or yellow ochre. 

The country affords no ornaments for the men, but 
collars of the claws of the fore paws of the Bear. The Women, 
as usual with all women are fond of ornaments, but the 
country produces none, except some of the teeth of the deer, 
which are pierced, strung together, and form bracelets for 
the wrists and sometimes a fillet of sweet scented grass round 
the fore head, the rest of their ornaments are from the 
Traders, as Beads of various colours, Rings, Hawks, Bells, and 
Thimbles. Scarce any has ear rings, and never any in the 

On the first arrival of a stranger in a camp, who has never 
seen them, he may not find the young women so handsome 
as he could wish, for there is a line of beauty in women which 
is somewhat different in every people and nation, but where, 
if the features are regular, we soon get habituated. These 
women have in general good features, though hardened, by 
constant exposure to the weather ; their dress is of deer skin 
mostly of the Antelope, white and pliant which is fastened 
over the shoulders, belted round the waist and descends to 


their ancles, or to the ground, show them to advantage. 
The dress of the Men is very simple, a pair of long leggins, 
which come to the ground and would reach to the breast, 
are secured by a belt, over which the rest hangs down. Some 
few wear a shirt of dressed leather, and both sexes wrap a 
Bison robe round them. Their walk is erect, light and easy, 
and may be said to be graceful. When on the plains in 
company with white men, the erect walk of the Indian is 
shown to great advantage. The Indian with his arms folded 
in his robe seems to ghde over the ground ; and the white 
people seldom in an erect posture, their bodies swayed from 
right to left, and some with their arms, as if to saw a passage 
through the air. I have often been vexed at the comparison 
The young men seldom marry before they are fully grown, 
about the age of 22 years or more, and the women about 
sixteen to eighteen. The older women who are related to 
them are generally the match makers, and the parties come 
together without any ceremony. On the marriage of the 
young men, two of them form a tent until they have families, 
in which also reside the widowed Mothers and Aunts. Poly- 
gamy is allowed and practised, and the Wife more frequently 
than her husband [is] the cause of it, for when a family 
comes a single wife can no longer do the duties and labor 
required unless she, or her husband, have two widowed 
relations in their tent, and which frequently is not the case ; 
and a second Wife is necessary, for they have to cook, take 
care of the meat, split and dry it ; procure all the wood for 
fuel, dress the skins into soft leather for robes and clothing ; 
which they have also to make and mend, and other duties 
which leaves scarce any part of the day to be idle, and in 
removing from place to place the taking down of the tents 
and putting them up are all performed by women. Some of 
the Chiefs have from three to six wives, for until a woman is 
near fifty years of age, she is sure to find a husband. A 
young Indian with whom I was acquainted and who was 


married often said, he would never have more than one wife, 
he had a small tent, and one of his aunts to help his wife; 
Nearly two years afterwards passing by where he was, I 
entered his tent, and [found] his first wife, as usual, sitting 
beside him, and on the other side three fine women in the 
prime of life, and as many elderly of the sex, in the back 
part. When I left the tent, he also came out, and telling 
me not to laugh at him for what he formerly said of having 
only one wife and he would explain to me how he had been 
obliged to take three more. " After I last saw you a friend 
of mine, whom I regarded and loved as a brother would go 
to war, he got wounded, returned, and shortly after died, 
relying on my friendship, when dying he requested his parents 
to send his two wives to me, where he was sure they would 
be kindly treated and become my wives. His parents brought 
them to me, with the dying request of my friend, what could 
I do but grant the claim of my friend, and make them my 
wives. Those are the two that sit next the door. The other 
one was the wife of a cousin who was also a friend of mine, 
he fell sick and died, and bequeathed his wife to my care. 
The old women at the back of the tent are their relations. I 
used to hunt the Antelopes, their skins make the finest leather 
for clothing, although the meat is not much, yet it is good 
and sufficient for us ; but now I have given that over, and to 
maintain seven women and myself am obliged to confine 
myself to hunting the Red Deer and the Bison, which give 
us plenty of meat, tho' the leather is not so good." 

The old Indian (Sarkamappee) whom I have already 
mentioned, pointed out to me, a curious kind of polygamy. 
Besides his old wives, on the other side of the tent, sat three 
young women of about sixteen or eighteen years of age, 
whom about two months before, had been given to him for 
wives by their parents ; I noticed that he treated them as if 
they were his daughters ; he told me that they were placed with 
him on trust. " You must know [that] among us are families 


far more numerous and powerful, than other famiKes and of 
which some of the relatives make a bad use of their influence, 
and oppress those that are weak, tho' as brave as themselves. 
Two of these young women are sisters and the whole three 
were betrothed to three young men ; and would have been 
given to them, had not three Men of two powerful famiHes 
who have each aheady four or five wives, demanded that 
these young women should be given to them ; as their parents 
are not powerful to prevent this, these three young women 
have been given to me, and in my tent they will remain until 
this camp separates, and they go some distance, when they 
will be given to the young men for whom they are intended ; 
And thus each of them will regard me as their father. He 
has always been a friend to the weak, and has thereby gained 
great influence. 

Some time after, I met an old Warrior whom I had known 
for a long time, I spoke to him of what Sarkamappee had told 
me of the three young women in his tent, and that I had 
never known such a custom among the Indians of the Woods, 
and enquired if it was common among those of the plains. 
He said " it is not common, yet it happens too often ; " Had 
one of those Men who wanted those young women come to 
Sarkamappee tent, and demanded them, what would he have 
done." " If any had been fool enough to have done so he 
would have shot him, as he would a Bear, and as careless of 
the consequences. 

The grown up population of these people appear to be 
about three men to every five women, and yet the births 
appear in favour of the boys. The few that are killed in 
battle will not account for this, and the deficiency may be 
reckoned to the want of woollen or cotton clothing. Leather 
does very well in dry weather, but in wet weather, or heavy 
rains it is very uncomfortable, and as is frequently the case 
on a march, cannot be dried for a few days ; it thus injures 
the constitution and brings on premature decay. Of this the 


Natives appear sensible, for all those that have it in their 
power, buy woollen clothing. 

The Indians of the Plains all punish adultery with death 
to both parties. This law does not appear to be founded on 
either religious, or moral, principles, but upon a high right 
of property as the best gift that Providence has given to 
them to be their wives and the mothers of their famihes ; 
and without whom they cannot live. Every year there [are] 
some runaway matches between the young men and women ; 
these are almost wholly from the hatred of the young women 
to polygamy. When a fine young woman, proud of herself, 
finds that instead of being given to her lover, she is to be the 
fourth, or fifth wife to some Man advanced in years, where 
she is to be the slave of the family, and bear all the bondage 
of a wife, without any of it's rights and priviledges, she readily 
consents to quit the camp with her lover, and go to some 
other camp at a distance where they have friends. In this 
case the affair is often made up, and the parents of the young 
woman are more pleased, than otherwise ; yet it sometimes 
ends fatally. But the most of these elopements are with the 
young women given to be the third or fourth or fifth wife ; 
in this case the affair is more serious, for it is not the father, 
but the husband that is wronged, and revenges the injury. 
If the young couple can escape a few months the affair is 
sometimes settled by a present of one or two horses ; but if 
the young man is considered a worthless character, which is 
often the case, his life pays the forfeit of his crime, and if the 
woman escapes the same fate, her nose is cut off as a mark 
of infamy, and some of these unfortunate women have been 
known to prefer death to this disgrace. Yet some cases are 
very hard. 

Poonokow (the Stag) was a son of the War Chief, Kootanae 
Appee. He was betrothed to a young woman, and only 
waited until the leather for a tent could be dressed to be a 
tent for them ; during which, upon an insult from the Snake 


Indians, his father collected his Warriors to revenge it, and 
some of his sons accompanied him, among whom was 
Poonokow ; the expedition was successful and he proudly 
returned with two fine horses one of which he intended for 
his father in law. During the expedition, by present and 
promises the father of another young man obtained her for 
his son. A friend went oif [to] his fathers camp to inform him 
of the disposal of his intended bride, and [to tell him to] think 
no more of her, but his love for her was too strong to follow 
this advice. With his two horses he went near the camp, 
but did not enter it ; here his friend parlied with him, whom 
he requested to send one of his aunts to him ; she came, and 
he explained to her how he was dealt with and that he was 
determined to have his bride, tho' he should kill the man that 
had her. His aunt seeing his resolution, promised to speak to 
her and see what she would do, the young woman, as soon as 
she was informed of it, went to him, and they both set oif 
for the Trading House on the Saskatchewan River, a journey 
of six days. When near the House, he saw a number of 
horses belonging to it, and not wishing to make his appear- 
ance on jaded horses, he unsaddled his own, and was putting 
the saddles on other two horses, when an Indian who was 
guarding them perceiving him and thinking he was steaHng 
them shot him thro' the belly. He knew the wound was 
mortal, but had strength to reach the House, where he lay 
down and related what had passed ; The next morning 
finding himself dying he took his sharp dagger in his hand, 
and held it ready to plunge into the heart of the young 
woman who had accompanied him and who was sitting beside 
him ; he said to her, " Am I to go alone ; do you really love 
me ? " She burst into tears, held down her head, but said 
nothing. " I see you do not love me and I must go alone, 
tell my brother of what has happened and that I die by my 
own hand," then with his dagger [he] cut his belly from 
side to side, and with a hysteric laugh fell dead. The Traders 


buried him. Tlie Peeagan young woman remained two days 
and as her fate appeared certain she was advised to go to 
some camp of the Blackfeet, but she refused, saying, he told 
me to go to his brothers, and to them I must go. And re- 
questing a horse, which was given to her, with provisions, 
she went to the camp of the brothers of her deceased lover, 
and to them related the sad story ; they pitied her, as they 
knew the Man to whom she was given would kill her, and 
told her so, and enquired what she intended to do. She said 
I know what I ought to have done, but my heart was weak, 
it is not so now ; my life is gone, if I die by the hand of the 
man to whom I was given, I shall die a bad death, and in the 
other world wander friendless, and no one to take care of 
me ; your brother loved me, he is in the other world, and 
will be kind to me and love me, have pity on me and send me 
to him ; an arrow thro' her heart laid her dead, for her soul 
to rejoin her lover, and they buried her as the widow of their 
brother. Whatever may be the idea of some civilized atheists, 
the immortaHty of the soul is the high consolation of all the 
rude tribes of North America. 

The character of all these people appear[s] to be brave, 
steady and deliberate, but on becoming acquainted with them 
there is no want of individual character, and almost every 
character in civilized society can be traced among them, from 
the gravity of a judge to a merry jester, and from open 
hearted generosity to the avaricious miser. This last char- 
acter is more detested by them, than by us, from their pre- 
carious manner of life, requiring assistance from each other, 
and their general character. Especially in provisions is great 
attention [paid] to those that are unfortunate in the chace, 
and the tent of a sick man is well supplied. (Note. We had 
been hunting the Bison, and every horse was loaded with 
meat, even those we rode on ; returning we came to a few 
Aspins, where everyone made a halt, and from the load of 
every horse a small bit was cut and thrown on the decayed 


root of a tree, to appease the spirit of a Man who had died 
there of hunger many years past, and all the conversation 
until we came to the camp, turned upon such an uncommon 
death). They have a haughtiness of character, that let their 
wants be what they will they will not ask assistance from each 
other, it must be given voluntarily and disgrace they cannot 
bear, especially in publick. Upon some business I was at one 
of their camp[s]; with five men, in the afternoon as we were 
about going away, and talking with some twenty men, sitting 
on our horses, about furrs and provisions an Indian passed us 
on foot, apparently somewhat irritated at something that had 
happened in hunting, he had let his horse loose, and his little 
horse whip was at his wrist ; his wife was outside the door of 
her tent as well as many other women listening to us. When 
he came to her he said something to her, and struck her 
gently with his whip ; she entered the tent, and in an instant 
came out, and passed about three yards from him, then facing 
him, she said to him, you have before all these disgraced me, 
you shall never do it again ; and drawing a sharp pointed 
Knife she plunged it into her heart, and fell dead. The 
whole camp seemed to regret her death, and blamed him for 
it ; but not a word [was said] against her suicide, for a blow 
especially in public, is a high disgrace. She was carefully 
buried, and what belonged to her, broken or killed. Her 
husband was fond of her, he sat quietly in his tent all day, 
but at night went to some distance, and there [would] call 
upon and lament her. Before her death he was an active 
and successful hunter, but since then never went a hunting 
and Hved upon any thing that was given him : After he had 
passed more than two months this way, his friends became 
alarmed, and represented to him that he was acting more 
like a woman than a man, and that he must become again the 
Warrior and the Hunter ; and brought to him two young 
women, the cousins of his former wife, to be his wives ; but 
he never regained his former cheerfulness. The affections of 


an Indian are deep, for he has nothing to turn them to other 

The Natives of all these countries are fond of their chil- 
dren, they have faults like other children but are not corrected 
by being beat. Contempt and ridicule are the correctives 
employed, these shame them, without breaking their spirit. 
And as they are all brought up in the open camp, the other 
children help the punishment. It sometimes happens that 
Husbands and Wives separate, if they have children the boys 
are taken by the father, and the Mother brings up the girls, 
but even in this case the father always retains his rights to 
them until they are married. 



Soldiers — Gamblers — Games — Resemblance of Indian language 
to European — Religion — Belief in the Immortality of animals 
— Passages to the other world — Morals — Medicine Bags — • 
Red Pipes — Influential men — Dreamers — Treatment of the 
old — Numeration — Meals — Horse stealing — Attack on the 

IN every large camp the Chiefs appoint a number of young 
men to keep peace and order in the camp ; in pro- 
portion to it's size ; these are called Soldiers, they are 
all young men lately married, or are soon to be married, they 
have a Chief, and are armed with a small wooden club. 
They have great power and enforce obedience to the Chiefs. 
The Hunters having informed the old Men, that the 
Bisons were driven to too great a distance for hunting, they 
called the Soldiers to see that no person went a hunting until 
the herds of Bisons came near of which they would inform 
them ; The same evening a Chief walked through the camp 
informing them that as the Bisons were too far off for hunting 
they had given orders to the Soldiers to allow no person to 
hunt until farther notice. Such an order is sure to find 
some tents ill provided. While we were there, hunting was 
forbidden on this account. Two tents which had gambled 
away their things, even to their dried provisions, had to steal 
a march on the Soldiers under pretence of looking after their 
horses ; but finding they did not return were watched. In 

the evening of the second day, they approached the camp, 


/23 /22 121 '■^° "3 

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107. 101 








p JE 







with their horses loaded with meat which the Soldiers seized, 
and the owners quickly gave up ; the former distributed the 
Meat to the tents that had many women and children, and 
left nothing to the owners ; but those that had received the 
Meat, in the night sent them a portion of it. Not a murmer 
was heard, every one said they had acted right. 

But the great business of the Soldiers is with the Gamblers, 
for like all people who have too much time on their hands, 
they are almost to a man, more, or less given to gambling 
day and night. All these the Soldiers watch with attention, 
and as soon as they perceive any dispute arise, toss the 
gambHng materials to the right and left, and kick the stakes 
in the same manner ; to which the parties say nothing, but 
collect everything and begin again ; In the day time the 
game generally played is with a round ring of about three 
inches diameter, bound round with cloth or leather, and the 
game is played by two men, each having an arrow in his 
right hand : one of them rolls the ring over a smooth piece 
of prepared ground, and when it has rolled a few yards, each 
following it, gently throw their arrows through it to rest 
about half way on the ring, which now lies on the ground 
and according to the position of the arrows, one has gained 
and the other lost ; each of these acts for a party who have 
an interest in the game ; and it sometimes requires two or 
three hours to decide the game. They have also sometimes 
horse racing, but not in a regular manner ; but bets between 
individuals upon hunting in running down animal[s], as the Red 
and Jumping Deer, or the killing of so many Cow Bisons at 
a single race. Another game is small pieces of wood of different 
shapes, which are placed in a bowl and then [thrown] up a 
little way and caught in the bowl, and according as they 
lay the game is won or lost ; if the holder of the bowl has 
gained, he continues until he has completed twenty, or ten, 
as the number may be agreed on. He then hands the Bowl 
to his opponent to try his luck, or if during any part he has 


lost, the Bowl is handed to the other, until the first has 
gained the number agreed on, who is declared the final winner. 
All games are played by either individuals for themselves or 
as acting for parties ; and I do not know any game where 
parties act against parties, it would prove too dangerous, 
altho' this is the case with the Indians of the low coimtries. 

The Game to which all the Indians of the Plains are most 
addicted, and which they most enjoy is by hiding in one of 
the hands, some small flat thing generally the flat tooth of 
a Red Deer, and the other party [has] to tell in which hand it 
is. It is played by two persons but generally by parties. It 
takes place in the early part of the night and continues a few 
hours. It is played in a large tent ; the opposite parties 
sitting on different sides of the tent. In the hind part of the 
tent the Umpire sits with the stakes on each side. Both 
parties throwing their robes and upper dress off, and sit bare 
above the belt, and each having chosen it's lucky man ; the 
Umpire shows the Red Deers tooth, which is marked to pre- 
vent being changed, he hides it in one of his hands, and the 
party that guesses the hand in which it is begins the game ; 
it's lucky man showing he has the tooth, begins a song in 
which his companions join him, he in the mean time throw- 
ing his arms and hands into every position ; the other party 
are all quietly watching all his motions. In a few minutes 
he extends his arms straight forward with both hands closed, 
and about six inches apart, and thus hold them until the 
opposite party guess in which hand the tooth is ; this is not 
always immediately done, but frequently after a short con- 
sultation ; if they guess wrong, the other winning party 
continue with the same gesticulation and song as before ; 
until a good guess is made and the tooth handed to the lucky 
man of the other party, and thus the game is continued until 
one of them counts ten, which is game. When the guess is 
made in which hand is the tooth, both hands are thrown 
open. The Umpire now takes the stakes of the losing party 


and places them on the side of the winning party, but keeps 
them separate. The losing party now hand to the Umpire 
another stake to regain the one they have lost. Thus the 
game continues with varied success until they are tired, or 
one party cannot produce another stake ; in this case the 
losing party either give up the stakes they have lost to the 
winners, or direct the Umpire to keep [them] for the re- 
newal of the game the next night. However simple this 
game appears, it causes much excitement and deep attention 
in the players. The singing, the gesticulation, and the dark 
flashing eyes as if they would pierce through the body of him 
that has the tooth, their long hair, and muscular naked bodies, 
their excited, yet controlled countenances, seen by no other 
light than a small fire, would form a fine scene for an Artist. 

The stakes are Bison Robes, clothing, their tents, horses, 
and Arms, until they have nothing to cover them but some 
old robe fit for saddle cloths. Yet they have some things 
which are never gambled, as all that belongs to their wives 
and children, and in this the tent is frequently included ; 
and always the Kettle, as it cooks the meat of the children, 
and the Axe as it cuts wood to warm them. The Dogs and 
horses of the women are also exempt. 

The Languages of this continent on the east and north 
sides of the Mountains as compared with those of Europe 
may be classed as resembling in utterance. The Sieux and 
Stone Indian to the Italian. The Nahathaway and Chipaway 
with their dialects to the French. The Peeagan with their 
allies, the Blood and Black feet Indians to the EngHsh, and 
the northern people, the Dinnae, or Chepawyans to the 

Of the several Tribes that hunt on the great Plains none 
of them have what we call a creed. Yet there is a general 
belief in some things, and to directly question them on their 
religion is of no use, as those that have lived long with them, 
know very well. Persons who pass through the country often 


think the answers the Indians give is their real sentiments. 
The answers are given to please the querist. 

The sacred Scriptures to the Christian ; the Koran to the 
Mahometan give a steady belief to the mind, which is not 
the case with the Indian, his ideas on what passes in this 
world is tolerably correct so far as his senses and reason can 
inform him ; but after death all is wandering conjecture 
taken up on tradition, dreams and hopes. The young people 
seldom trouble themselves beyond the present time, but 
after thirty, their precarious life of hunting and war, the loss 
of parents, relations and friends with much spare time brings 
on reflection, and turns their thoughts to futurity. They all 
appear to acknowledge that there is one great power, always 
invisible, that is the master of life and to whom every thing 
belongs, that he is kind and beneficent ; and pleased to see 
mankind happy, but how far he is pleased to interfere with 
the concerns of Mankind, they are not agreed ; some think 
that his providence is continually exerted, that they can 
have nothing but what he allows to them, founding their 
arguments on his power and being the master of everything ; 
but the greater part believe every man to be the master of 
his own fortune, and that this depends on his own conduct, 
yet they all allow the Great Spirit to be the master of the 
seasons, and of the animals with every thing else, that is not 
under their control, but on all these things their ideas are 
very vague, and sometimes from their conversation they 
believe in fatality, which is no part of their belief as grounded 
on the ever varying visissitude of their lives. Living in the 
open wide plains, where everything is visible and can be 
brought within the range of their reason, they are free from 
the superstitions of the natives of the forests, and seldom 
address the Great Spirit but on public occasions as on going 
to War ; and for the herds of Bisons to continue to feed in 
their country or any epidemic sickness. 

They believe there are inferior Beings to the Great Spirit, 


under whose orders they act, that have the care of the animals 
of the Plains and the Forests ; but do not allow them the 
power, or reverence, which the Natives of the Forests bestow 
on their Manitoes. All the Natives of north America, from 
Ocean to Ocean, however unknown to each other, and dis- 
similar in language, all believe in the immortality of the 
soul, and act on this belief. Although this heavenly belief 
has not the high sanction of the holy Redeemer of mankind 
who alone has brought life and immortality to light, yet 
vague and obscure as it is, it is the mercy of the Almighty to 
them. They have no ideas of a judgement in the other world, 
with rewards and punishments, but think the other world is 
like this we inhabit only far superior to it in the fineness of 
the seasons, and the plenty of all kinds of Provisions, which 
are readily got, by hunting on fleet horses to catch the Bisons 
and Deer, which are always fat. The state of society there 
is vague yet somehow the good will be separated from the 
bad and be no more troubled by them, that the good will 
arrive at a happy country of constantly seeing the Sun, and 
the bad wander into darkness from whence they cannot 
return. And the darkness will be in proportion to the crimes 
they have committed. 

Their morals appears to proceed from an inherent sense 
of the rights of individuals to their rights of property, whether 
given to them, or acquired by industry, or in hunting. All 
these belong to the person who is in possession of them ; 
and which give him a right to defend any attempt to take 
them from him. No man is allowed connexion with his 
female relations nearer to him than his second cousins, and 
by many these are held too near. Two sisters frequently 
become the wives of the same husband, and [this] is supposed 
to give harmony to their families. Among people who have 
no laws, injuries will arise, without any authority to redress 
them ; this is felt and acknowledged, and most would will- 
ingly see a power that could proportion the punishment to 


the offence, but to whom shall the power be given, and who 
would dare to take it, even when offered to him ; not One. 
The Chiefs that are acknowledged as such, have no power 
beyond their influence, which would immediately cease by 
any act of authority and they are all careful not to arrogate 
any superiority over others. 

When out on the Plains one of these Chiefs had rendered 
me several services, for which I had then nothing to pay 
him. On my return to the house, by the interpreter, I sent 
him a fine scarlet coat trimmed with orris lace, and a message 
that as I understood he was going to war, I had sent him this 
coat as a recompense for his services with some tobacco. But 
the interpreter, not thinking this homely message sufficiently 
pompous, on the dehvery of the coat, told him I had sent 
it to him as being a great Chief and to be his dress on going 
to War as a Chief. He was surprised at such a message ; and 
the next day, by a young man, sent it with the message to 
the Chief at the next camp, who not liking the tenor of the 
message, sent both to another camp, and thus it passed to 
the sixth hand, who being something of a humourist, sent it 
to a very old chief, who was not expected to live. He kept it, 
telling the messenger to thank the Trader for sending him 
such a fine coat to be buried in. Some time after, the Chief 
to whom I had sent the coat came in to trade and enquired 
if the message sent with the coat came from me ; I told him 
the message I had sent, and that the coat was a recompense 
for his services. He was very angry with the interpreter, and 
told me not to employ him among his people as he was looked 
on as a pompous fool, and that his lies would cause his death, 
(which happened two years after ;) he then related how the 
coat and message had been sent forward till it came to the 
old dying chief ; and that the message as delivered by the 
interpreter had caused much conversation, as I am, as yet, 
but a young chief. Had the coat with such a message have 
been sent to the War or civil chief, they would have taken the 


Coat, and laughed at the message, but for this I am not old 
enough. The consequence was, that I had to pay him the 
value of the coat in other goods. Even the War and Civil 
Chiefs have no authority beyond the influence of what their 
good conduct gives to them. 

The natives of the forest pride themselves on their Medi- 
cine bags, which are generally well stocked with a variety of 
simples which they gather from the woods and banks of the 
Lakes and Rivers, and with the virtues of which they are 
somewhat acquainted. The Indians of the Plains, have none 
of these, and collect only sweet scented grasses, and the gums 
that exude from the shrubs that bear berries and a part of 
these is for giving to their horses to make them long winded 
in the chase. But these people must also have something 
to which they can attach somewhat of a supernatural char- 
acter for religious purposes ; and for this purpose they have 
adopted the Red Pipe, and Pipe Stem, and which seems to 
have been such from old times ; for until the year 1 800 they 
had always raised tobacco in proportion to their wants. 
When they became acquainted with the tobacco of the 
U States brought by the traders, which they found to be so 
superior to their own, that they gradually left off cultivating 
it and after the above year raised no more. The tobacco 
they raised had a very hot taste in smoking, and required a 
great proportion of bears berry weed to be mixed with it. 
The white people gave it the name of the devil's tobacco. 
As very few of them can find furrs to trade the quantity of 
tobacco they require, I enquired of them, why they did 
not . . .1 

also for a medicine pipe there are certain ceremonies to be 
gone through, and a woman is not allowed to touch a medi- 
cine pipe ; and their long pipe stems are equally sacred 
These are of three to more than four feet in length, and about 
three to five inches in girth, and well polished. Each re- 

^ A page of manuscript is here missing. 


spectable man has from three to four of these pipes stems, 
which are tied together when not in use and hung on a 
tree ; on removing from place to place the owner slings 
them over his back and at the campment again hangs them up. 

That equality among the Natives however strictly held, 
does not prevent a great part from wishing to distinguish 
themselves, in some manner and as there cannot be many 
remarkable Warriors and Hunters, a few mix with other 
tribes and learn their languages, and become acquainted with 
their countries and mode of hunting. Others turn Dreamers, 
and tell what other tribes are doing and intend to do ; where 
the Bisons and Deer are most plenty ; and how the weather 
will be ; and the boldest Dreamers point out the place of the 
camp of their enemies, and what they intend to do Some 
shrewd men, by their dreams procure influence, and become 
Chiefs. And in general dreams are very useful for making 
bargains, exchanging and buying horses, making marriages, 
and giving advice, which in any other manner would not be 
taken, — and dreams also indulges that innate love of mankind 
for prying into, and predicting futurity. If which they have 
foretold come to pass they are accounted wise men, and if 
it fails, it was only a dream. Time often hangs heavy on 
them, and for this gambling is their greatest reHef. 

The civilized man from very early youth is accustomed 
to hear numbers spoken of from one to one Million ; thus 
fifty, five hundred, or five thousand, &c. are to him as units, 
his mind gives no individuaHty to each unit that compose 
the number be it of what it will. But the Indian forms his 
numbers of individuals, and appears to have no idea of numbers 
independent of them. Perhaps formerly the uneducated 
Shepherds, and Herdsmen obtained their ideas of numbers 
in the same manner, and [I] have frequently been told of 
Shepherds who could not by numbers count their Sheep in 
his flock, but by his own way could quickly tell if there was 
one missing. 


The Nahathaway Indians count numbers the same manner 
as we do to the numbers of lOO which they call the great 
ten ; and a thousand, the great, great ten ; beyond which 
they do not pretend to number ; and even of this they make 
no use, and any things, as of birds and animals that would 
amount to this number, they would express it by a great 
many. But the Indians of the plains count only by tens, 
and what is above two tens, they lay small sticks on the 
ground to show the number of tens they have to count and 
in describing the herds of Bisons or Deer, they express them 
by a great, great many, and the space they stand on ; for 
numbers is to them an abstract idea, but space of ground to 
a certain extent they readily comprehend and the animals it 
may contain ; for they do not appear to extend their faculties 
beyond what is visible and tangible. 

The Peeagan Indians, and their tribes of Blood and Black- 
feet, being next to the Mountains often send out parties 
under a young Chief to steal Horses from their enemies to 
the south and west side of the Mountains, known as the 
Snake, the Saleesh and the Kootanae Indians. This is allowed 
to be honourable, especially as it is attended with danger and 
requires great caution and activity. But the country of the 
Stone Indians and Sussees are full from four to six hundred 
miles in the plains, eastward of the Mountans, and too far 
to look for horses ; the Sussees content themselves with rear- 
ing horses, but the Stone Indians are always in want of 
horses which appears to be occasioned by hard usage. They 
are most noted horse stealers and where ever they appear in 
small parties, the horses are immediately guarded. They 
steal horses from other tribes, but frequently at great risque. 
Those who are near the trading settlements too often steal 
the horses of other tribes when they come to trade ; and also 
those of the Traders, in doing of which they are very expert. 
When the Traders leave their stations to proceed with their 
furrs to the different depots to exchange for goods : the horses 


of the trading House are sent some few miles under the 
care of two or three Men well armed, to where there are 
plenty of good grass, water, and a wood of Poplar and Aspin, 
the latter to make a smoky fire to relieve the horses from the 
torment of the Musketoes and horse flies. One summer (I 
think 1802) a large camp of Stone Indians, had sent some 
young men to a Blackfoot Camp, who brought away about 
thirty horses, they were quickly followed to the Stone Indian 
camp, and about three nights afterwards, the Blackfeet young 
men took not only the greater part of the horses stolen from 
them, but collected as many more and drove them all off to 
their own camp. 

This distressed the Stone Indian camp and as they knew 
the other camps were guarding their horses, they determined 
to steal horses from the trading Houses. Accordingly six 
smart young men were selected and sent to the Upper House 
on the Saskatchewan River,^ a distance of five or six days 
journey. When within a few miles of the house they came 
to about fifty horses guarded by three men whose station 
was on a low bank that overlooked the place where the horses 
were feeding, all the mares had, as usual, the fore [feet] tied 
together with a leather thong to prevent them strolling 
about and more readily kept together. The Men kept strict 
watch, only one man slept at a time and in the night two of 
them walked among the horses well armed. Thus for six 
days they watched for an opportunity ; during which time, 
with their Arrows they had kiUed three buck Antelopes ." They 
were now tired of waiting and were determined to try their 

^ Rocky Mountain House. 

* Although it is probable that in one or two previous instances Thomp- 
son refers to the Prong-horned Antelope, Aniilocapra americana (Ord.), 
it is certain that in this and in several succeeding instances, he actually 
refers to deer, usually Odocoileus hemionus (Rafinesque), under the name 
" antelope." I am informed by Mr. J. B. Tyrrell that Thompson's loose use 
of the word antelope is probably due to a lapse of memory, since in his 
original notes he used the word chevreuil, the name then in common use 
among the voyageurs for the Mule Deer. [E. A. P.] 


fortune ; In the afternoon when they perceived the Men 
had dined three of them with the skins of the Antelopes and 
their horns, disguised themselves to appear like deer, the 
other three also, put horns on their heads of which there 
were very' plenty on the plains ; the latter went behind the 
horses and there entered among them and untied the feet of 
the horses ; those with the Antelope skins pretended to feed 
as deer, and got among the horses for the same purpose, the 
Men were deceived, but remarked it was the first time they 
had seen the Antelopes feeding among horses. As soon as 
the horses were all untied, the Indians gave a signal to each 
other, with the Hues bridled the best horses and jumping on 
them as they were, horns and all, gave the hunting halloa, 
and drove the whole of the horses off at a round gallop. The 
men were so surprised that they could scarcely believe what 
they saw, and before they could recover themselves to use 
their guns, the whole of the horses were far out of shot. 

The Stone Indians brought them all to the camp, and 
were received with the praises of the men, and the dances of 
the women. Some time after at another trading House, in 
the month of July, two of [us] went off to hunt and early 
walked off to the Horse tent, on account of the flies, all the 
horses were crowded round the smoke of the fires ; we 
saddled two of the best and rode off a few miles but the flies 
were so numerous the horses were frequently for throwing 
themselves on the ground to get rid of them, and seeing 
nothing, we returned to the Horse tent, where we found the 
three men in a violent passion and swearing with all their 
might. On looking at them, one of them . . .^ 
pass part of the summer at one of the trading houses. 

In the latter end of August, he took his outfit for the 
winter's hunt, and with his two horses carrying his traps and 
baggage set off for his winter quarters. A few days after we 
were surprised to see him return : he informed us that as he 

'■ A page of manuscript is here missing. 

2 A 


proceeded on his journey the Horses with their load struck 
a wasp's nest and were severely stung by the wasps, that in 
running away and rolling themselves on the ground they had 
lost one of his steel traps and broke another, and spoilt some 
of his gunpowder, which he wanted to replace, and informed 
us this was not the first time he had suffered from them. 
The old man sat very serious smoking his pipe, and shaking 
his head, said " I can never get my Horses accustomed to 
the Wasps." When removing their Tents, the Men going 
before destroy the wasps and nest before the Women and 
Children come on. 

I have already remarked the tribe of the Peeagans have 
their country along the east foot of the Mountains from the 
Saskatchewan southward to the Missisourie, and are the 
frontier people and their enemies on the west side of the 
Mountains must break through them to make war on their 
alHes, who thus live in security in their rear. This station 
has given to this Tribe something of a chivalrous character 
and their war parties carry on their predatory excursions to 
a distance scarcely credible in search of their enemies, the 
Snake Indians. In the year 1807,^ in the early part of 
September a party of about two hundred and fifty Warriors 
under the command of Kootana Appe went off to w^ar on 
the Snake Indians ; they proceeded southward near the east 
foot of the Mountains and found no natives, they continued 
further than usual, very unwiUing to return without having 
done something, at length the scouts came in with word that 
they had seen a long file of Horses and Mules led by Black 
Men (Spaniards) and not far off. They were soon ready and 
formed into one line about three feet from each other, for 
room to handle their Bows and Shiels, having but a few 
guns ; the ground was a rough undulating plain, and by 
favor of the ground approached to near the front of the 

* It is apparent from another account by Thompson of this raid that 
this date should be 1 787. 


file before they were discovered, when giving the war whoop, 
and making a rush on the front of the file, the Spaniards al